Scott Gessler targeted by activist over voting in Saguache county and beyond
Aspen's Marilyn Marks is driven.
The woman behind Citizen Center, a nonprofit organization that focuses on elections issues and more, is pushing Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler's office to hold a hearing prompted by her complaint about alleged voting irregularities in Saguache County. And today, she plans to announce a broader lawsuit focusing on Gessler and officials in several other counties.
Marks's background? "I used to be the primary owner and CEO of a trailer manufacturing firm," she says. "I retired to Aspen in 2002 and ran for mayor in 2009 -- and that experience caused me to get completely passionate about Colorado's elections, which are some of the least transparent, most troublesome elections in the country. In the past almost-three years, I have become a full-time election-quality advocate: I have seven active lawsuits going on across the state on election transparency and election quality. And now, I've established a nonprofit so that I can continue my work in a more organized way."
"They bought with HAVA [Help America Vote Act] funds a very complex computerized voting machine about a month before the 2010 election," she says. "The system that they purchased was not certified by the Secretary of State because they only bought one component of a certified system -- the same system in use in Jefferson County and Mesa County."
According to Marks, "that system had a number of problems when it was decertified and then recertified in 2007-2008 by the Secretary of State's office" -- and she believes the Saguache vote bore them out: "The Saguache election found gross errors as well as an enormous amount of negligence."
Last April, in an effort to prove these contentions, Marks asked the Secretary of State to investigate the Saguache election under the dictates of HAVA. However, his office declined to do so. Why?
"There are two components to a HAVA complaint under state law," says Rich Coolidge, spokesman for the Secretary of State's office. "A person has either to have been personally aggrieved or have personally witnessed the violation. Since Ms. Marks was not a resident of Saguache County and did not witness any of the pieces she alleged, we sent her about a five-page letter on June 22 saying that she didn't have standing."
This response irked Marks. "I live in Aspen, which is not close to Saguache County," she acknowledges. "But I've been helping Saguache citizens for the past year. And the standard Gessler set for what it would take to have standing to file a complaint is an unachievable standard if you're talking about computer and software errors of the type we've seen here. You can't observe a software error happening unless you're inside the computer -- but you can observe the results. And while I could have gotten plenty of Saguache citizens to say, 'I was a voter, and I know the voting machine didn't work right, and I think my vote didn't count,' that person would have had to disclose how they voted and then showed that to be true, which could only happen if they had great access to the voting system."
Such requirements strike Marks as unnecessary given that "we know from system logs and printouts that there were mechanical errors -- like incidents where the clock started running backward."
Page down to read more about Scott Gessler and Marilyn Marks.