Saguache County election fraud case goes to a grand jury

Saguache County election fraud case goes to a grand jury

A major dispute over a flawed election in south-central Colorado is going to a state grand jury.

Subpoenas are being handed down to officials in Saguache County, where the incumbent county clerk and county commissioner initially lost on Nov. 2 only to see the results reversed three days later.

Clerk Melinda Myers, who stands accused of more than 30 misdemeanors in the handling of her own election, has been ordered to testify before the grand jury on April 28 at the Denver City and County building. Other officials involved in the election also have been subpoenaed to explain what happened.

After unofficial results showed Myers lost to Republican challenger Carla Gomez by 15 votes and fellow Democrat Linda Joseph was beaten by Republican challenger Stephen Carlson , Myers announced a software glitch had deleted absentee and early voting tallies from a largely Democratic precinct that includes Crestone. After re-running the
ballots through an optical scanner on Nov. 5, Myers declared she edged out Gomez by just over 40 votes and Joseph defeated Carlson by 9 votes.

Voters have been up in arms ever since.

Members of a six-person canvassing board have refused to certify the election, claiming Myers and her staff failed to properly secure the ballots, improperly conducted the post-election audit, rebuffed requests to independently verify voter tabulations and ignored complaints about voting irregularities.

Some suspect Myers may have manipulated the outcome to keep her $42,500 job. Others, including Carlson and members of Myers’ own party, flat-out accuse the clerk of stealing the election. Myers maintains she never committed any fraud and, rather, is the victim of small-town gossip and politics.

A half-dozen bipartisan complaints were filed with Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, who has opened a criminal investigation into “the general conduct of the election” and called for a grand jury.

Mike Saccone, the attorney general’s spokesman, confirmed the investigation is being presented to a state grand jury. “Subpoenas have been issued,” he said. “It is already considering the matter.”

He declined to discuss the specifics of the case and offered no timeline as to when it might be over.

On Sunday, about 80 people attended a special community meeting to discuss the election snafu. Attendees said that Myers asked them whether they would be satisfied with the election results if the attorney general cleared her of criminal wrongdoing. Only a handful of people said they would be satisfied, the attendees reported, as many voters in the county have serious doubts about the election’s overall integrity.

“Their minds are made up,” Myers lamented Tuesday. “We’re living in really volatile times right now where anger and fear are running rampant. Most reasonable folks, though, aren’t going down that road. We are really happy that the attorney general is finally getting involved and we can clear this thing up.”

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About the Author

Troy Hooper

Troy Hooper covers environmental policy for the American Independent News Network. His work has been published in The Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News, Huffington Post, San Francisco Weekly, Playboy, New York Post, People and dozens of other publications. Hooper has covered the Winter Olympics in Italy, an extreme ski camp in South America and gone behind the scenes with Hunter S. Thompson on election night in 2004. Born and raised in Boulder, Hooper has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of California at Santa Barbara.

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