BROOMFIELD, Colo. (AP/CBS4) – A judge will now decide the fate of Broomfield’s fiercely scrutinized election and whether to throw out a fracking ban that passed by just 20 votes.
Lawyers on Tuesday wrapped up closing arguments in the two-day trial that focused on how ballots were counted and handled before and after the election. The trial is the result of a challenge by pro-fracking groups.
Unofficial results indicated the five-year ban failed by 13 votes, but a recount showed it passed by 20 votes out of more than 20,000 votes cast.
Questions were raised during the trial about possibly ineligible voters and uncounted ballots. The Broomfield Enterprise reports that ban opponents must prove that at least 20 ballots were wrongly counted in order for Judge Chris Melonakis to throw out the results of the election.
Some of the votes at issue include military and overseas ballots that were mailed to Adams County and not counted because they were forwarded to Broomfield after election day.
Broomfield attorney Bill Tuthill acknowledged that 10 ballots were miscounted because of residency mix-ups. Three came from people who hadn’t lived there long enough to vote but were accidentally counted. The ballots of six voters who did meet residency requirements were wrongly discarded because election workers didn’t think they lived there long enough. The tenth ballot was cast by a voter who changed her name. Her ballot wasn’t counted because her signature didn’t match the name on the ballot.
“No matter how close the margin of victory, it only takes more votes than the other side to be enacted. There is a razor thin margin, but it’s still a margin,” said Bill Tuthill, Broomfield City and County Attorney.
“They were very inconsistent in dealing with ballots this way or that way, and because of that inconsistency, I think that really causes doubt in the judge’s mind,” Tom Cave with the Broomfield Balanced Energy Coalition said.
It wasn’t clear when the judge would rule in the case.
Even if Melonakis invalidates the results, it’s not clear whether he could order another election.
He said he had “a lot to think about” and congratulated both sides for being engaged on an important issue.
“The bottom line is, people invested in this issue have represented and participated in the electoral process and created chaos. That’s a good thing. Democracy is chaos,” he said.
Voters in three other Front Range cities passed fracking bans in November – Boulder, Lafayette and Fort Collins.
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