ARVADA —Emails obtained by Complete Colorado show an acknowledgment by Jefferson County officials that the November election was held in violation of state statute, with Colorado’s Secretary of State essentially telling them not to worry about it.
On Nov. 30, Cynthia Rasor, senior elections project coordinator for Jefferson County, sent an email to local governments that participated in the 2023 coordinated election informing them that Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder Amanda Gonzalez had failed to properly notice the election — a very basic legal requirement for all elections.
Rasor wrote that the incident was a “regrettable consequence” of staff transitions within the office.
“It came to our attention that our office failed to publish notice of this election in a general circulation newspaper within 20 days of the election,” the email read. “My staff and I understand the importance of adhering to all statutory obligations and sincerely apologize for this error. In response to this incident, we have implemented a new set of checklists and protocols to ensure meticulous compliance with all posting requirements moving forward.”
Colorado law (CRS 1-5-205) says that no later than 20 days before each election, the election official shall provide “notice by publication of the election” in a general circulation newspaper that includes the date of election, the hours that polling locations and drop off locations will be open, the address of polling locations and the address of drop-off locations.
Gonzalez’s office did not do that. However, Gonzalez, a Democrat who is rumored to be the candidate of choice to replace current Secretary of State Jena Griswold in 2026, apparently contacted Griswold when the mistake was noticed and was told, in essence — no harm, no foul.
‘Substantial compliance’ claimed
“Judd Choate, the Colorado State Election’s director, reviewed this matter and determined that Jeffco substantially complied with elections laws. Substantial compliance is the standard set forth in CRS sec. 1-1-103,” a separate email from the Arvada Deputy City Attorney to Arvada City Councilman John Marriott reads. “Choate determined that no further corrective action was needed.”
Rasor’s email also stated that the Secretary of State’s office advised them all was good.
“We have reached out to the Secretary of States office, and they confirmed that we don’t need to take any additional action,” the email reads.
Both former Secretary of State Scott Gessler and former Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Taheri said that times have changed so much that the requirement really isn’t the end all of election notice.
“I’m not sure what the remedy would be,” Gessler said, adding they won’t cancel the election. “So, what do you do? The answer is pretty much nothing. Even if they could prove (that substantial compliance wasn’t met) what does it get you?”
Marriott, who lost his race for Arvada mayor in November, said in his case, even if the election were invalidated by the courts, the same person who beat him would just be appointed by a Democrat majority on the city council.
“That’s the problem with elections these days,” Marriott told Complete Colorado. “They are not getting the candidates they want. They are getting the candidates the machine puts out there.”
Marriott was clear, he doesn’t blame his opponent or Democrats in general.
“They are using the rules to their benefit,” he said. “But the clerk should be ashamed of herself and at the very least reach out to every candidate and apologize for messing up the election.”
Taheri said with ballots now mailed out 22 days before the election to every single voter in the state and all the advertisements and mailers that are circulated, it’s hard to claim anyone was unaware there was an election happening.
She said the election would have had to been challenged already before the official certification of the election, which was Dec. 4 — giving anyone just two business days to file a challenge after Gonzalez’s admission of the error went out to local governments, but not to the candidates themselves.
“The standard is the extent of the noncompliance and whether you did it on purpose,” she said. “They would probably find the extent was minimal because it was on the website, all the news was talking about it, and everybody got a ballot. They would probably find that it was just an oversight unless it could be proven that someone was intentionally trying to deceive everyone.”
Marriott, who lost his bid for mayor by only 400 votes, said he has no plans to sue Gonzalez’s office because he doesn’t believe it would have changed the outcome of his election, but he said it is still a shame she didn’t do her job right and no one seems to care.
“She has one job to do,” Marriott said. “It’s absolutely terrible that it’s just being swept under the rug. She gets an official opinion and then just hopes it goes away. I would have preferred if the clerk called every candidate and just said, ‘I made a mistake, and here is what we intend to do about it.’”
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