Monday didn’t just mark the first day of early voting in Colorado. It also marked the state’s first campaign complaint.
The Colorado Republican Party filed a complaint to the Larimer County Clerk’s office Monday in wake of allegations that Obama supporters were handing out pizza and t-shirts to prospective voters, as well as campaigning too close to the Lory Student Center, which is a designated polling place.
According to the complaint letter, the Democratic Party and Obama for America (OFA) posted signage for the OFA-sponsored www.gottaregister.com inside of the student center. In addition, a large Obama campaign banner was posted just outside of the Plaza entrance to the LSC.
Campaign-related materials are not permitted within 100 feet of a polling area, according to C.R.S. 1-13-714.
“Our democratic process hinges upon the integrity of our elections,” Colorado Republican Party Chairman Ryan Call said in a news release. “The Democrats’ clear disregard for the rules governing Colorado’s electoral process is a severe oversight that needs to be addressed.”
As of Wednesday evening, the complaint had been resolved, according to Andrew Cole, a spokesman for the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office, adding that the banner had been moved away from the polling site, and that the parts of the signs inside the LSC deemed electioneering were covered up.
“The main issue is that, obviously, it’s an important election,” Cole said. “People are excited about their candidates, but we want to make sure that people follow the law.”
In a statement, the Colorado Democratic Party called the allegations, “a hypocritical charge from an increasingly desperate campaign.”
“The party that has spent over half a million dollars on a firm accused of voter fraud across the country should join us in encouraging people to vote instead of making frivolous complaints,” the statement went on to say.
The violation was first brought to the Colorado GOP by Rachel Drechsler, a senior political science major and treasurer for the CSU College Republicans.
When Drechsler first explained the potential violations to an election judge at the Lory Student Center, the complaint letter said, the judge refused to take action, claiming that the Plaza’s status as a free speech zone “trumps poll rules.”
Larimer County Clerk Scott Doyle called this logic “not true.”
“I don’t think we’re going to try and stand on anything like a free speech zone trumping something that’s the law,” he said.
Doyle said the complaint was easily resolved, and that, because the Lory Student Center is designated as a “multi-use” facility, his concerns lie with the campaign handing out t-shirts and pizza rather than the placement of signs.
He added that since the designated entrance to the polling place in the LSC are the doors near the Transit Center, rather than the Plaza, the legality of the placement of the Obama banner was a gray area.
According to C.R.S. 1-5-105, “when a polling place is within multi-use buildings such as a shopping mall or county office building, the ‘building’ shall be considered the room in which ballots are cast, any waiting room or hall where electors wait to vote, as well as a primary corridor where electors walk to an interior polling place, and the designated exterior door to the multi-use building in which the polling place is located.”
This was the first complaint of this type Doyle has seen in 12 years.
The CSU College Democrats were not involved with Monday’s Plaza display, according to organization President Kelsey Maez. However, Maez said that per her understanding, the pizza rewarded students for voting rather than induced them to vote for a specific candidate.
“It was pizza for anyone — they were encouraging the political process, and voting,” Maez said.
C.R.S. 1-13-720 states that it is a misdemeanor to, “offer or promise to pay, loan, or contribute, any money or other valuable consideration to or for any elector, or to or for any other person, to induce such elector to vote or refrain from voting at any election provided by law.”
Drechsler wrote in an email to the Collegian that she was happy that her complaint is now closed, but added that she hopes the community will remain vigilant.
“Polling laws were created to ensure an equal opportunity for all to succeed, therefore it is important that all parties follow the rules, not just today, but everyday,” she wrote.
Editor in Chief Allison Sylte can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @AllisonSylte.