Complaint alleges Senate candidate Norton petition signatures invalid

DENVER— Failed GOP Senate candidate Thomas Bjorklund yesterday filed a complaint in Denver District Court seeking to disqualify GOP U.S. Senate candidate Jane Norton from the August primary ballot.

The apparently hastily prepared complaint misspells at the top of the document the name of Secretary of State Bernie Buescher, the defendant in the complaint, referring to him as “The Honorable Berie Beuscher.”

Buescher is the defendant rather than Norton because the suit alleges that some of the people collecting signatures for Norton were not authorized to collect them and as a result the signatures collected should not have been allowed by the Secretary of State’s office.

Bjorklund’s wife, Shari, ran against Buescher for Colorado House District 55 in 2004.

Bjorklund’s complaint makes three allegations.

1) That notaries used by the campaign to certify the signatures were “parties to the transaction” and/or “received an advantage… as a direct result of the notarizations.”

2) That one or more of the petition circulators were not residents of Colorado, were not citizens of the United States, or were not registered to vote as Republicans at the time they circulated petitions.

3) That one or more of the signatures allowed by Buescher’s office were the signatures of people not eligible to sign such petitions.

In addition to mis-spelling Buescher’s name, the complainant made other mistakes, little things such as typos, but it also lists the complaints as first, second, and fourth, skipping the third. The complaint also appears to have a 2007 case number. A clerk at the court said those mistakes would probably not cause the complaint to be dismissed.

Bjorklund could not be reached immediately for comment. His attorney, Adam B. Kehrli, of Patterson, Nuss & Seymour did not return a phone call.

Cinamon Watson, spokesperson for the Norton campaign, called the complaint “silly and frivolous. We turned in three times the number of signatures required,” she said. Commenting on the specific allegations in the complaint, she said, “That’s totally false. We followed the letter of the law.”

Rich Coolidge, director of communications for Secretary of State Buescher said he had seen the complaint. He would not comment on the specifics but said, “We do our job. We go through and look at what is turned in and we do our best to verify things. Now it is up to a judge.”

Norton controversially decided to petition directly onto the primary ballot in the spring after losing the March caucus strawpoll vote to her GOP opponent Weld County D.A. Ken Buck. Buck went through the traditional delegate process and was voted the GOP state delegates’ choice at the state assembly in Loveland in May.

Norton turned in 30,000 signatures with her petition to land a spot on the primary ballot. As Watson said, nearly triple the amount of signatures Norton needed to have approved by Buescher’s office, which is a safe calculation because many signatures are routinely thrown out as invalid. Norton needed 10,500 signatures– at least 1,500 from each of the state’s seven congressional districts. If the complaint triggers a new round of inspection, all it would take is for the total for one of the districts to fall below 1,500 for Norton to be thrown off the ballot.

Edit note: Tom Bjorklund’s wife ran against Buescher for Colorado House District 55, as reported above. The original version of this story reported she ran against Buescher for Secretary of State.

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Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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