Rita Ague was wearing the smallish button, maybe two inches around, with even smaller lettering, that she has had for 10 years, when she went to cast her vote early in El Paso County.
Ague’s mind wasn?t on the button, it was on the long ballot and agreeing to waive her right to privacy to be able to keep the paper receipt after her vote was cast. “My husband’s a computer pioneer,” she points out, “and he has educated me fully on how easy it would be to manipulate the machines.”
When a junior clerk asked her to remove her button, Ague was stunned. She looked down at it, and then looked back up at the clerk. “Grandmothers for Peace?” she asked.
She thought for a second. “I won’t do that,” she said. “I hold it as firm as a religious belief. If I had a cross on, they wouldn’t have asked me to remove it.”But the clerk was insistent. The button was a political statement, and that was electioneering. Ague would have to remove it or leave. Ague wouldn?t do either one. Eventually the guy in charge, elected Clerk & Recorder Bob Balink was asked to weigh in. Wearing a Grandmother for Peace button, Ague was told, could remind voters of the war in Iraq. That point made no sense to Ague: there was nothing on Colorado?s ballot related to the war in Iraq, and besides, were they also asking soldiers to remove their uniforms before voting? The uniforms might make people think about the war in Iraq.
Eventually, Ague was escorted from the premises. She warned Balink she was contacting the ACLU. His response? “Bring ’em on.”
And yes, Ague got to vote. Amid the distraction, she was able to slip her absentee ballot into the box.
One thought to ponder: Balink apparently has no problem stifling citizens’ free speech, but he sure likes to have his. Just a week ago, Colorado Confidential reported on Balink’s 4th Quarter newsletter, printed courtesy of taxpayers, in which he demanded to know, “Where’s the Outrage?” – over illegally registering to vote, marriage, Christmas trees and even menorahs.
The newsletter has generated some controversy of its own, as Balink appeared to be weighing in on marriage and gays, issues that, unlike the Iraq war, were actually on this week’s ballot in Colorado. Balink has maintained his comments were merely generic.