Secretary of State sued over Jon Keyser’s spot on the ballot

Voters who allege U.S. Senate candidate Jon Keyser’s petition gatherer forged signatures are suing the Secretary of State to get the candidate off the June 28 Republican primary ballot.

The lawsuit, filed today in Denver District Court, claims Secretary of State Wayne Williams did not follow all the necessary procedures to declare Keyser’s petitions sufficient to qualify for the ballot.

That claim is related to a statement of sufficiency, which must be issued by the Secretary of State once a candidate’s petitions are deemed adequate for the ballot.

According to the Secretary of State’s website, a “statement of sufficiency” indicates whether a sufficient number of valid signatures has been submitted that would certify the petition is eligible for the ballot. The website also stated that if the Secretary of State fails to issue a statement within 30 days of petitions being submitted, the petitions are deemed sufficient.

Judd Choate, head of the elections division for the Secretary of State, told The Colorado Independent that in the case of Keyser’s petitions, they were deemed insufficient within 30 days of submission. “There’s no provision in the law for our current circumstance, where we’ve deemed them insufficient, the candidate challenged that in court, and then the court overwritten what we’ve determined,” he said. Because there’s no provision in law, “we typically don’t issue a new statement of sufficiency. We just put them on the ballot, which is what the court ordered us to do.”

Choate added that “If those three citizens or anyone else wanted to challenge [Keyser’s] placement on the ballot” they should have done that between May 5, when the court ordered his name onto the ballot, and May 10, under a five-day period allowed by law for challenges.

The lawsuit also claims 60 signatures on Keyser’s petitions in Congressional District One were forged, which would be enough to drop his petitions below the minimum 1,500 required in each congressional district to qualify for the ballot. The Keyser campaign turned in 1,520 valid signatures, according to the Secretary of State.

But after those signatures were ruled valid by court order, KMGH Reporter Marshall Zellinger discovered several had been forged, and it was later revealed that one signature was from a voter who had died months before.

The lawsuit states that all of the 178 signatures turned in by Maureen Moss — who is alleged to have forged at least some of the signatures — should be invalidated, leaving Keyser with 1,342 signatures in Congressional District One.

As a result, the lawsuit states votes for Keyser from the June 28 primary ballot should not be counted.

The three voters who filed the lawsuit are Marcy Cochran, a Republican from Larimer County; Jonathan Royce, a Republican from Fremont County; and Michael Cerbo, a Democrat from Denver County who also is a former lawmaker and currently the head of the Colorado AFL-CIO.

Representing the trio: Attorney Mark Grueskin of Denver, a prominent election attorney who often files cases on behalf of Democrats.

In a statement sent to KMGH, Keyser spokesman Matt Connelly said, “It’s no shock that liberals are deploying the Democratic super lawyer who represents all their pet liberal causes in an attempt to save [U.S. Senator] Michael Bennet from losing to Jon Keyser in November. As we’ve stated previously, we are confident that if it becomes necessary, we’ll be able to add hundreds of additional valid signatures to our petitions that were incorrectly excluded.”

Those signatures were not challenged by Keyser in his original lawsuit against Williams earlier this month. Williams told reporters two weeks ago that candidates typically ask the courts to rule on just enough signatures to get onto the ballot, and not on every signature that was declared invalid.

Ballots for the June 28 primary have already been printed and will be in voters’ mailboxes in the next two weeks. Overseas voters in the military have already been mailed their ballots, based on federal laws that require those ballots go out 45 days before the election.

Photo credit: Win With Wayne

has been a political journalist since 1998. She covered the state capitol for the Silver & Gold Record from 1998 to 2009 and for The Colorado Statesman in 2010-11 and 2013-14. Since 2010 she also has covered the General Assembly for newspapers in northeastern Colorado. She was recognized with awards from the Colorado Press Association for feature writing and informational graphics for her work with the Statesman in 2012.