COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., August 31, 2014 — Last year on Labor Day, Coloradans were getting ready to vote on whether to recall two state senators over unconstitutional anti-Second Amendment legislation they passed. One year later, those two and a third are gone and the citizens of Castle Rock, Colorado have won another victory for the right to bear arms.
It should have been easy. Castle Rock is a conservative town in one of the most conservative counties on Colorado. In January, a majority of the city council voted to rescind the Town Manager’s authority to restrict open carry.
Not content with this decision, a vocal minority put an initiative on a special ballot to void the Council’s decision. By the time it reached the ballot, Measure A was worded so that “Yes” meant to validate the Council’s decision while “No” would overturn it. A second initiative, Measure B, was added to add a clause to the town charter requiring a vote of the people before enacting “Any restriction or limitation on the rights of citizens to keep and bear firearms…”
The wording of the second measure is similar to a planned state-wide initiative that would have amended the Colorado state constitution in the wake of the legislature’s 2013 gun control laws. That initiative has not yet gone forward.
Restricting the sphere in which legislators may act follows abuses of authority by the state legislature. The first such restriction in Colorado was TABOR: the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights. Legislators have been fighting it ever since it passed in 1992.
The election in Castle Rock ended on August 19. The results were released Thursday and certified Friday; measure A passed with 50.8 percent of the vote, while Measure B passed with a whopping 71.2 percent of the vote.
The results mean that open carry of firearms is allowed in all town-owned facilities and parks, except for the Castle Rock Municipal Court while in session. Neither the town manager nor the Town Council will unilaterally be able to restrict citizens’ right to bear arms.
The Colorado Second Amendment Association (C2AA) immediately issued a press release declaring victory. The issue committee was one of several that worked to inform Castle Rock citizens of the upcoming election and the effect of a “yes” vote on both initiatives.
The election was not without controversy, not only about the subject but also about the procedures used in the election process.
As a home-rule town, Castle Rock set their own procedures. Those procedures initially included:
- Deciding on an all-mail ballot election, flooding the town with almost 32,000 ballots, of which only 9,400 were returned.
- Doing no signature verification on the ballots that were returned
- Allowing clerk officials to clearly see how individuals voted
- Initially allowing no observers to monitor the ballot-counting process
Repeated requests and formal complaints by Ken Clark, Dan Meurer, Castle Rock resident and Congressional candidate Jess Loban, Castle Rock resident and candidate for the State House Patrick Neville, and election quality activist Marilyn Marks were met with resistance by the Town Council, the town’s Election Commission, the town clerk, Sally Misare, and Town Attorney Robert Slentz.
“The process is more important than the result,” said Clark. “If we don’t protect that ballot box, the rest of our rights are useless.”
Marilyn Marks noted, “The wrongful actions of the Town officials permitted the election workers and watchers to view how individual voters voted, creating a fundamentally unfair flawed election which few will ever believe is legitimate.”
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Some better procedures were adopted as a result of complaints, and ballot counting was halted the weekend before the final day of the election.
In their complaint, Clark and Meurer are requesting that the Court declare the August 19 election void, and that the Court block any attempts by the Town Council to pass “emergency” changes to the town’s election code for purposes of recounts and election challenges for this election, something that the Town Council has indicated it plans to do.
“They’re changing the rules in the middle of the election,” said Clark. Referencing the uncertainties in election procedures introduced by the passage of two laws in the last two General Assembly sessions, he continued, “This is the kind of lawless election practice that needs to be stopped before November’s elections.”
A hearing date for the latest legal challenge is still pending. The Town Council is set to discuss recount procedures; the town has already received requests for a recount.