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If a Broomfield judge’s ruling stands, the eligible candidate with the most votes may no longer necessarily win an election.
A July 11 decision in Figueroa v Speers not only effectively nullifies the results of an Adams County school board race. The plaintiffs who lost this legal round also believe the reasoning in Judge Chris Melonakis‘ ruling changes the standard to declare winners for elected political office.
Numbers released last November showed Amy Speers received thousands more votes than incumbent appointee Rico Figueroa in the contest to claim a governing seat on the five-member Adams 12 Board of Education. However, just a week before Election Day and after ballots were printed and mailed, Adams 12 ruled Speers ineligible when it was discovered she lived in the wrong director district.
Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler issued an emergency rule that initially prevented county clerks from counting and reporting Speers’ votes. But a union-backed legal challenge overturned his ruling, ensuring the ineligible candidate’s votes were counted. The Colorado Supreme Court upheld the rejection of Gessler’s rule but left it to the local courts to determine the final outcome of the election. In December a group of local parents and taxpayers intervened in the case.
Judge: Figueroa Not Elected
Melonakis’ July 11 ruling concurred with the plaintiffs that Speers is not eligible to win the race due to her residency. Yet instead of certifying Figueroa as the victor, the Broomfield judge declared the seat vacant. “The voters in his district expressed a clear intent not to elect [Figueroa],” he wrote.
The judge simply counted all votes for Speers as votes against Figueroa, even though the ineligible candidate refused to withdraw from the race and even encouraged voters to select her name on their ballots “to send a message.”
Plaintiffs’ attorney Mario Nicolais sees a dangerous red flag in the judicial logic. “Under the reasoning in this ruling, nobody would be deemed ‘elected’ by a plurality anymore,” he said. “Unlike places like Louisiana and Mississippi which do require a majority, we have no ‘runoff’ system. Consequently, the case throws elections into huge chaos.”
Melonakis laid the blame for not detecting the error sooner on an Adams 12 official, but absolved Speers of any responsibility for improperly signing the affidavit to declare her eligibility as a candidate.
Without citing any evidence, the judge also stated that Figueroa should have been aware sooner of his opponent’s ineligibility because — as a board member — he had earlier approved changes to the director district maps. Even so, according to the ruling, the board member needed to act “expeditiously” to bring a legal claim prior to the election.
One of the lead plaintiffs in the case sees the judicial assertion as an unfounded attack on Figueroa. “He defamed the character of a good man,” Brian Vande Krol said. “Instead of contempt of court, we have contempt by court.”
Citizens Weighing Appeal
The group of intervening parents and taxpayers is weighing a decision whether to appeal the Broomfield court ruling. If it stands, the district would declare a vacancy that the remaining four school board members would have to fill within 60 days. Board president Mark Clark is authorized to break any disputed tie votes.
The replacement director would have to run again at the next school board election (November 2015), just as Figueroa did after being appointed to the Adams 12 board in 2012. With the Colorado Supreme Court ordering a stay, Figueroa has continued his duties on the board while the case has worked its way through the legal system.
Vande Krol sees the case as part of a broader effort to defend the integrity of Colorado elections against incursions by 2013 and 2014 Democratic-backed “voter fraud encouragement” state legislation.
“Those acts seriously damage the integrity of elections,” he said. “If they’re not repealed, this case is moot.”
Tags: Adams 12, Amy Speers, Brian Van de Krol, Broomfield, Colorado Supreme Court, Elections, huge chaos, judge, majority, Mario Nicolais, parents, Rico Figueroa, school board, Scott Gessler, taxpayers
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