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Three strikes…you’re out!! If only…..
By Jill Duvall

Once again, the Elbert County Clerk filed a lawsuit against the Colorado Secretary of State…and for the third time in a Colorado court of law, Dallas Schroeder failed in his unending quest to assert his perceived authority over an elected state official. On October 27, 2022, Schroeder filed a lawsuit to remove the Election Supervisor appointed by the Secretary of State, an appointment made due to three actions taken by Schroeder (all quotations in this article are taken from documentation in the final decision of Colorado legal case #2022CV33085 issued on 11/3/2022):

  • 1) the forensic images Schroeder stored on copies of hard drives which the SOS viewed as a potentially serious security breach because “Schroeder was working with people not authorized under the election code to have access to election equipment.”

  • 2) “Elbert County failed to verify or count 37 misplaced mail ballots during the regular election counting process for the June 2022 primary election,” and

  • 3) Schroeder “issued press releases, convened press conferences and held community presentations in August and October 2022 where he…..demonstrated an intent to take actions that could undermine voter confidence in Elbert County’s general election.”

As further background, this was the “sixth Election Order directed to Elbert County Clerk Schroeder in 2022” and “the second election in a row in which the SOS ordered the appointment of an Election Supervisor in Elbert County.”

While Schroeder continues to claim this was just retaliation against him for protected speech, the court finds that the Secretary’s explanation of events leading up to the appointment of an Election Supervisor for the general election “provides factual support (other than retaliation) as to why an Election Supervisor was appointed for the 2022 general election” and that “the record before the Court failed to establish any such retaliation.”

In all three visits to the courtroom, Schroeder has attempted to prove that he has some sort of autonomy from the Secretary of State’s supervisory powers, which are granted through numerous Colorado statutes and election rules/laws. So far, three different judges have reiterated that Colorado’s Election Code establishes that the SOS is the “chief state election official,” and that “the Secretary occupies a higher position in the elections hierarchy than Clerk Schroeder.” The judge further stated that, “the sole fact that Clerk Schroeder is elected does not confer the kind of autonomy he seeks to assert here.”

In the latest lawsuit, witness Deputy Secretary of State Christopher Beal stated that “these events were enough to make him and the SOS believe Clerk Schroeder was a security risk to the election in Elbert County such that supervision was necessary.” Beal also testified under oath that Schroeder and Rhonda Braun made comments in the public presentations “that caused us concern.”

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This “concern” leads to another potential future dilemma as Rhonda Braun becomes the Elbert County Clerk. She is already disregarding state statutes which speak to assignment of election judges. In spite of having done election judge scheduling for many years, during this year’s elections she disregarded at least two state statutes, erring by not appointing the correct number of judges for specific assignments and failing to balance the bi-partisanship of judging teams. As a result of these errors, more election officials from the Secretary of State’s office (in addition to the already assigned Election Supervisor) were forced to step into Elbert County’s general election to correct the scheduling errors in order to ensure that EC’s elections complied with all the lawful statutes to provide a free and fair election for the citizens.

Are we headed for more lawsuits as Elbert County’s election officials continue to willfully ignore state statutes and only comply, begrudgingly, with the authority spelled out by the courts? This defiance repeatedly leads to wasted taxpayer dollars, as the elections officials in Elbert County once again refuse to accept the fact that the SOS is authorized, per state statute 1-1-107(2)(b), “to inspect…and review the practices and procedures of county clerk and recorders, their employees, and other election officials in the conduct of elections.”

Understandably, Elbert County is a strong Republican county with Democrats only comprising 12% of the registered voters which explains why the Democrats have not elected anyone to a county office since 1990. But at what point will the Republicans nominate candidates based on qualifications who possess a desire and the character to serve the best interests of the citizens?

We should all look to the leadership of recently deceased Republican House Minority Leader Hugh McKean, who I didn’t know personally but he certainly sounds like a friend I would have liked to have met in this journey we call life. As journalist and longtime legislative reporter Marianne Goodland so aptly stated, Hugh McKean “took on the role of a peacemaker rather than fighting back against those who would challenge him”…..he had a desire to serve the people….all of the people.

Oh, the places we’d go if only we could elect individuals in Elbert County with this outlook on public servanthood. It is within our ability, but do we have the will?