Castle Rock, Colorado squares off on open carry
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., August 10, 2014 — There’s a dispute in Castle Rock, Colorado between the Town Council and the town manager over open carry. As a result, there’s a special ballot on August 19, and there is controversy surrounding the balloting itself.
While the state of Colorado allows open carry, since 2003 the home-rule city of Castle Rock has given the town manager the authority to decide where open carry may be permitted on municipal property.
Town Manager Mark Stevens is opposed to open carry and has prohibited it. In January, a majority of the city council voted to rescind the town manager’s authority.
Castle Rock is a growing municipality located mid-way between Colorado Springs and Denver along I-25. The town operates under a council and manager form of government: The elected Town Council appoints a town manager, who acts as a sort of chief executive officer.
Not content with the council restriction on his authority, Stevens worked to put the issue to a vote of the people. The result of the stand-off is competing ballot initiatives. The first seeks to validate (or void) the Council’s decision in January. The second would add a requirement to the town charter that a vote of the people be taken before enacting “Any restriction or limitation on the rights of citizens to keep and bear firearms.”
The issue committee “Vote No on A” recommends (not surprisingly) voting ‘No” on the first question. This would have the effect of nullifying the Town Council vote and restoring the town manager’s control over open carry. Other advocates, including the Colorado Second Amendment Association and Carry On Colorado, recommend voting “Yes” on both questions. “Yes” votes would not only affirm the Council’s vote but also further safeguard citizens’ right to bear arms.
It is not only the content of the ballot that is controversial, but also the election process itself.
Following new election laws passed by Colorado’s Democrat-controlled legislature in the past two years, all elections are to be mail-in ballot; ballots are to be sent to all registered voters — active, inactive, dead or moved — and people may register up to and including the final day of the election. Voters in the Castle Rock special election should have received their ballots by August 6.
Town Clerk Sally Misare who, like all employees of the town, works for the town manager, has promulgated rules for the election process that will favor the town manager’s point of view.
“No ballots shall be marked in any way whereby the ballot can be identified as the ballot of the person casting it.” Article VII, Section 8, Colorado Constitution
Complaints filed with the Castle Rock Election Commission on August 5thand 8th by a coalition of sixteen citizen watchdog groups, issue committees and new media, alleges that the rules for this election will:
- Violate voters’ constitutional right to a secret ballot. Ballots do not contain a secrecy sleeve and have tabs on them identifying the voter so counters will know how every citizen voted.
- Fail to provide signature verification. Anyone can fraudulently sign and return any number of ballots.
- Count ballots early. Election officials will know day-by-day how the vote is going.
These are open invitations to stuff the ballot box. The usual remedy to prevent this includes election observers, but these, too, are being restricted. The complaint further points out that the rules as approved by the Town clerk:
- Restrict who from the media may observe to those who hold Colorado press credentials
- Restrict issue committees from appointing more than one watcher, and to that the watchers be residents of the Town of Castle Rock
- Restrict where media observers may stand and what they may record.
These restrictions go well beyond the common-sense restrictions in the Colorado Secretary of State’s guidelines and those in common use in Douglas County and elsewhere in the state.
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In the West Metro Fire Protection District election in May, ballot counters were inexperienced and overwhelmed. More than 34,000 votes were cast as compared to a previous high of a little over 5,000. The same thing could happen in Castle Rock, and there may not be adequate citizen oversight to insure a free and fair election.
This is why Americans have protections like secret ballots and election observers. And this is also why autocrats like Stalin right down to the petty tyrants in local government want to do away with them.
Full disclosure note: The author, as publisher of the Voice of Liberty, is one of the complainants against the Castle Rock election rules.