Sorry, Craig: Resignations in Colorado’s Moffat County Leave City Unable to Conduct Election

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The city of Craig, CO is currently unable to conduct its April election because several resignations have left Moffat County without anyone with the required certifications to assist. The Craig Daily Press has more:

According to a Jan. 16 email from Moffat County Clerk and Recorder Tammy Raschke to Craig City Clerk Liz White, the county clerk and recorder’s office will not be able to conduct the April 2 municipal election due to a lack of training, a development that has left city officials scrambling to contract election services.

In the email, Raschke wrote:

“As discussed in our phone conversation today, the County Clerk and Recorders Office will be unable to conduct the city election. We have not had the training to access the SCORE System as required by the Secretary of State’s Office. We will not have the training completed in time to meet your deadlines. We apologize for the great inconvenience and look forward to assisting you in the future. If you have any questions regarding these issues, please feel free to contact me at my office.”

According to Craig Mayor John Ponikvar, only three officials in the county clerk and recorder’s office were certified to conduct elections: former Clerk and Recorder Lila Herod, who left office in January; former Elections Coordinator Tori Pingley, who resigned in January; and former Deputy Election Clerk Amanda Tomlinson, who also resigned.

The issue is Craig’s historical reliance on county assistance for municipal elections – but now the city will have to seek alternatives:

Ponikvar said he was meeting Monday with Craig City Manager Peter Brixius, City Attorney Sherman Romney, and White to discuss options for contracting services to carry out the municipal election.

“This has never happened before,” Ponikvar said. “We’ve always contracted with the county to do our elections.”

Despite this historical precedent, however, the county is not statutorily required to conduct municipal elections, according to Craig City Attorney Sherman Romney.

Reached by telephone on Monday, Romney said the city is currently exploring its options under the Municipal Election Code, set forth in Title 31 of Colorado state law.

He noted that some other municipalities around the state conduct their own elections, so there is precedent.

“We have a city clerk, who’s our election official, and we will probably use contractual services,” Romney said. “We have a couple of options on who we might contract with.”

He said the issue is likely to be added to the city council’s agenda for its Tuesday meeting, and while he added he doesn’t think the complication will interfere with election deadlines, it may necessitate the need for in-person voting and hand-counting of ballots.

“We should know a lot more after Tuesday’s meeting,” Romney said.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this issue lately; the period immediately following a general election is often a time when election officials leave their jobs by retirement, resignation or even electoral defeat – meaning that being prepared for such turnover is likely just as important as planning for weather-related disruptions in the winter months. [UPDATE: I should have said this explicitly before – these training requirements are absolutely worth the effort and aren’t at fault here.] I’m sure Colorado officials at the state, county and municipal level will work this out but in the meantime the folks in Craig will be scrambling. Stay tuned …

 

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