Springs editor beseeches Gov. Ritter to intervene in election ‘crisis’

Amid growing concerns of voter suppression in El Paso County, Ralph Routon, the editor of The Colorado Springs Independent altweekly newspaper, has published an open letter to Gov. Bill Ritter “strongly encouraging him to step in and do something about Colorado’s worsening election crisis.”

The letter is published in today’s edition of the free weekly, with a circulation of 36,000. Several of Routon’s concerns mirror those that have been detailed by the Colorado Independent — specifically recent actions by El Paso County’s Clerk and Recorder, Bob Balink, who is in charge of the election in the county of more than a half-million.

This year, Balink’s office sent a letter to Colorado College, a liberal arts college in Colorado Springs, incorrectly claiming that students could not vote in El Paso County if their parents in other states claimed them as dependents in those states. Balink, a Republican, subsequently claimed it was a big mix-up, and that his office had misinterpreted state law.

In addition, this year Balink opted to close three of six early-voting centers, claiming his existing staff could not likely handle the crowds. In his letter, Routon spanked Balink for his decision to close early-voting centers, rather than offering more, pointing out that El Paso County encompasses more than 2,000 square miles.

Routon also highlighted the fact that John Gardner — who “made a mess” of the Diebold testing machines while working for the secretary of state, has resurfaced in El Paso County and is now in charge of the voting machines there. Oh, and it turns out, he lied on his application about graduating from college.

To be sure, Routon’s open letter to the governor teeters on the hysterical at times — like when he tattles that Balink has “ordered that all TVs in his office’s public waiting areas be set only on FOX News.”

And here’s some drama you don’t read very often: “This is a virus ready to spread like a pandemic, with lawyers from both parties descending upon Colorado like locusts.”

But to be sure, Routon makes some valid points, most importantly that the problems that are bubbling to the surface in a statewide election overseen by Secretary of State Mike Coffman — who is running for Congress on the same ballot — may indeed result in “a recipe for a Nov. 4 horror show.”

“Brace yourself to hear about long lines and longer waits. About machines that aren’t reliable and can’t be checked for accuracy. About thousands showing up, being wrongly told they can’t vote and then screaming to the local and national media.”

Will Ritter heed the warning? Stay tuned …

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Cara Degette

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