Grand jury finds problems with Saguache County election, but no crimes

"Family style voting" in Saguache County caught the attention of the Colorado Elections Division, which noted in a December report that partitions were not used Nov. 2 to protect voter privacy. It is but one example of problems that plagued the county's disputed general election. (Teresa Benns/Center Post Dispatch)

Saguache County Clerk and Recorder Melinda Myers will not face criminal charges connected to last fall’s flawed election that saw her and a county commissioner prevail under dubious circumstances.

A grand jury this week issued a report stating it “is convinced” Myers and Linda Joseph were the legitimate winners of the election, which the initial results on Nov. 2 showed they had lost. A glitch in the election’s computing, however, was discovered, reversing the outcome in Myers’ and Joseph’s favor.

“While there were several deviations from prescribed procedures, none of them, individually or collectively affected the outcome of the election,” the grand jury report states. “For Clerk Myers to have tampered with the results from November 2nd in order to achieve her own victory, she would have had to manipulate the computer data to create the many false errors. … At the time, she was lying prone on the floor of her office. Based on the extensive computer records, video surveillance , and the sworn testimony of witnesses, the Grand Jury is convinced that the election results are accurate.”

The report, noting that no indictments were being handed down, added: “The Grand Jury also found that irregularities and deviations from strict compliance with the Election Code do occur, and have occurred, in other Colorado counties during elections, and are not considered unusual.”

The grand jury noted the Colorado Secretary of State, along with the third-party election consultant, could also be blamed for the problems with Saguache County’s election and that their involvement “was a mitigating factor against criminal charges for the violations committed by Clerk Myers.”

Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler, who came to power after the Saguache County election, is still seeking to hand count the election to ensure its validity and bolster the confidence of voters.

“I am encouraged by the grand jury’s report of Saguache County’s 2010 elections,” Gessler said in a statement issued on Wednesday. “The report makes clear the challenges faced by my office’s limited resources. The report also recognizes our efforts to perform a thorough review of the Saguache election and to continue to learn from the mistakes made. Most importantly, the grand jury reinforced the responsibility of the state to closely supervise county clerk and recorders. We’re going to improve training related to equipment usage and election procedures. Additionally, we will work with the county clerks to identify how my staff can better support them.”

The grand jury’s report hasn’t stifled Myers’ skeptics who are mounting an effort to try to recall the clerk.

Lisa Cyriacks, one of several residents to file complaints over the election, said she believes the grand jury’s report determined Saguache County “met the lowest standard” of election conduct and performance “and the lowest standards are being held up as the ‘acceptable’ norm. In my opinion, this “lowest common denominator” is not good enough for the voters of Saguache County.”

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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