• By Vincent Carroll

    Denver Post editorial page editor

     Denver District Court Judge Robert Hyatt decreed that Adams 12 school district candidate Amy Speers had been  duly elected  to the school board  even though she doesn t live within the district   where she ran.
    Denver District Court Judge Robert Hyatt decreed that Adams 12 school district candidate Amy Speers had been duly elected to the school board even though she doesn’t live within the district where she ran. (RJ Sangosti, Denver Post file)

    If a candidate who is not eligible to hold office somehow gets on the ballot and receives more votes than the only other person running, who is elected?

    Logic suggests that the sole legal candidate is elected, despite the lower vote count. It’s as if that person ran unopposed.

    But that’s not what happened in the Adams 12 school district last month, and it raises troublesome questions for state election law that need to be resolved. Fortunately, the Colorado Supreme Court has agreed to review the lower court decision that created this unusual mess.

    Denver District Court Judge Robert Hyatt decreed that Amy Speers had been “duly elected” to the school board even though she doesn’t live within District 4, where she ran. Since she can’t legally occupy the office, Hyatt also said a vacancy committee — in this case, the school board — would choose her replacement.

    Meanwhile, incumbent Rico Figueroa, who was a legal candidate, is simply out of luck.

    As Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s appeal of Hyatt’s ruling understandably concludes, this is an “absurd result.” It means that “anyone can become a ‘duly nominated’ candidate for elected office in Colorado even if he or she does not satisfy all of the qualifications for office at the time he or she becomes a candidate, can then become ‘duly elected’ to an office that he or she is ineligible to assume, and that such events create a vacancy in office … .”

    Adams 12 is one of those districts where passions have been running high and the teachers union is unhappy with the board’s direction. Speers, who was backed by the union, apparently did not realize she was ineligible to run in District 4. Neither did the school board at first, since it erroneously certified her to appear on the ballot. By the time the board realized the mistake, ballots had been printed and mailed.

    Had Speers agreed to withdraw, her votes would have been discarded and Figueroa declared the winner. But she refused, prompting Gessler to issue a decree on Election Day that essentially ordered the county clerks in Broomfield and Adams not to count votes for Speers.

    Several citizens promptly sued, demanding a full vote count. Hence Hyatt’s ruling.

    Hyatt makes much of the fact that Colorado law specifies only two circumstances when votes are not to be counted: when a candidate dies or withdraws. And he also underscores the fact that the law says “if the person who was duly elected or appointed is or becomes” a nonresident, then the office is considered vacant.

    That language almost sounds as if the legislature anticipated ineligible candidates being “duly elected.” But even if votes involving such candidates must be counted, common sense has to prevail at some point. It defies belief that the legislature ever thought candidates who were ineligible to hold office could be “duly elected,” however clumsily they wrote a line in the statute.

    “Duly” means properly and appropriately — in accord with all requirements. Speers was anything but duly elected by that definition.

    And what of the more than 14,000 residents of District 4 who actually did vote for an eligible candidate? Hyatt’s ruling simply disenfranchises them.

    That’s why another group of Adams 12 parents who support Figueroa is challenging the election in a separate legal action.

    “This is really about the integrity of our elections,” Brian Vande Krol, a district resident, told me. Those who voted for Speers understandably feel bad because their votes won’t count, he added, but the remedy is not to toss out the remaining votes for a legal candidate.

    There is no doubt that Figueroa was vulnerable in the recent election. The trouble is, no one who was eligible to defeat him bothered to get into the race.

    E-mail Vincent Carroll at vcarroll@denverpost.com. Follow him on Twitter @vcarrollDP

    Read more: Carroll: An “absurd result” in Adams 12 school board election – The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/carroll/ci_24647939/an-absurd-result-adams-12-school-board-election#ixzz2muV7mJEB 
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    Posted by Dana West @ 11:44 am for Adams County Politics, Candidates, Editorial, Education, Elections |

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