Education, Elections

One man, all of the votes? Adams 12 election case holds big implications

We’re all familiar with the idea: “one man, one vote.” That idea has been turned on its head by a Denver District Court judge’s decision regarding an Adams 12 school board race. His decision has broad implications for Colorado.

A “candidate” for District 4 in the Adams 12 School District, Amy Speers, was found to live inside District 2, making her ineligible to hold the office. Therefore, Speers was never a legitimate candidate, and the race was won by the unopposed candidate Rico Figueroa. Not so fast.

icon_op_edSpeers’ ineligibility was found after she signed a sworn affidavit that she lived in District 4 and after ballots were printed. Speers could have gracefully admitted the error and withdrawn from the race. Instead she blamed the school district for the oversight, refused to withdraw, and worked with the teachers’ union leadership—who spent $40,000 on her election—to continue campaigning. They even used the district’s so-called “mistake” as campaign fodder to press union members into voting for their non-candidate.

Democratic Party lawyers worked to find a loophole that would allow them to “win” the election regardless of Speers’ eligibility. The lawyers muddied the water enough that the county clerks planned to count votes for Speers. The Secretary of State intervened at the 11th hour, instructing the clerks not to count the votes for ineligible candidates. Afterward, a lawsuit led by Adams County Democrat Chairman Jim Joy demanded that votes for Speers be counted. He called for a board vacancy to be created if Speers received more than Figueroa. She did. Denver Judge Hyatt concurred.

Stunningly, Figueroa is being punished for his opponent’s mistake. While Speers’ actions already disenfranchised her voters, all Adams 12 voters are disenfranchised by the judge’s faulty decision, including the 14,081 who voted for the race’s only eligible candidate. Judge Hyatt’s ruling means one man will decide who holds the seat.

The Adams 12 Board of Education fills vacancies by appointment. The Board is evenly divided, and Board President Mark Clark is the tiebreaker. He will effectively control the votes of all Adams 12 voters. That’s not democratic, but it could be legal if the Colorado Supreme Court upholds Hyatt’s decision and rejects Secretary of State Gessler’s appeal. Figueroa joined a number of Adams 12 parents and other citizens in filing a parallel election lawsuit in Broomfield County to overturn Hyatt’s ruling and declare the only eligible candidate the rightful victor.

The effects of Hyatt’s ruling would extend beyond this election. Candidates could run for any office in the state, regardless of residency. An Adams County resident could run in Jefferson County. Then a small group of elites, not The People, would get to pick who they want. Incumbents could run “placeholder” candidates in this way, bypassing the popular will. Those with malicious intentions could wreak electoral havoc through an ineligible run.

If Hyatt’s ruling holds, government of The People, by The People and for The People will become as meaningless as “one man, one vote.”

Joseph Hein is a taxpayer and parent who lives in the Adams 12 School District.

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