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Trial on Broomfield election challenge gets under way with focus on how ballots were handled

By Megan Quinn, Enterprise Staff Writer

The first day of a trial that aims to determine the validity of the embattled Nov. 5 Broomfield election included five witnesses and focused on how ballots were handled, sorted and stored. 

The trial, which is meant to clear up the legitimacy of the election, began Monday and is expected to wrap up Tuesday. It is the result of a challenge to the election brought by pro-fracking group Broomfield Balanced Energy Coalition and Tom Cave, a member of pro-fracking group It’s Our Broomfield, Too. 

The election has been mired in controversy since a five-year ban on fracking passed by just 20 votes. 

The ban was put on the ballot after grassroots group Our Broomfield collected enough signatures to have it appear. Our Broomfield has said more research must be done on the potential health impacts of fracking and the five-year ban offers more time for that research to take place. 

The challenge and trial are the extension of the battle to win over voters that began long before residents went to the polls. 

On Monday, lawyers and witnesses unpacked the details of how the Broomfield elections division dealt with the ballots. They also examined the specific concerns of parties who believe Broomfield mishandled the process both before and after votes were counted. 

Judge Chris Melonakis is expected to rule on the case Tuesday, after lawyers make their closing arguments at 9 a.m. 

Plaintiffs in the election challenge case want Melonakis to declare that the ban — Question 300 — did not really pass because of numerous election flaws. Yet Broomfield, which wants the judge to declare that the election results are valid, said the razor-thin outcome was the result of a close election, not flaws in the election. 

Witnesses included Colorado Secretary of State’s Office representative Stephanie Mann, who discussed a report released by the office in November. The report criticized Broomfield’s election process, citing issues such as “improperly counting ballots cast by ineligible electors; and improperly rejecting ballots cast by eligible electors." 

Also testifying was Suzanne Staiert, deputy secretary of state, who discussed how other cities handled their elections processes and voter eligibility issues in 2013. 

Broomfield elections employees who gave testimony were elections technician Penny Norman,County Clerk Jim Candelarie and elections administrator Michael Susek, who discussed their roles in the counting and storing of ballots and said that their actions were meant to enfranchise all voters throughout a tough election. 

Read more: Trial on Broomfield election challenge gets under way with focus on how ballots were handled - The Denver Post 
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Background Photo Credit: Kasia Broussalian © 2015