Larimer County Clerk removes Collegian from several LSC racks

Kate Simmons

Larimer County Clerk and Recorder Angela Myers reversed her Tuesday morning decision to remove copies of the Collegian from racks at the north end of the Lory Student Center. Myers initially said the papers were “electioneering” and placed too close to the ballot drop-off area in the North Ballroom.

Rosalina Lunsford, a sophomore studying biological sciences, looks through the newspaper racks while waiting for the Transfort bus inside the LSC on Tuesday night. (Photo credit: Kate Simmons)
Rosalina Lunsford, a sophomore studying biological sciences, looks through the newspaper racks while waiting for the Transfort bus inside the LSC on Tuesday night. (Photo credit: Kate Simmons)

The paper’s front page prominently displayed a photo and story of Democratic Sen. Mark Udall’s Monday visit to campus. Udall is running for re-election against U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner.

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Electioneering is defined by Colorado statute 1-13-714 as “campaigning for or against any candidate and/or ballot issue that is on the ballot,” according to the Larimer County official website. Electioneering material is not permitted within 100 feet of ballot drop-off locations.

Myers changed her decision after receiving a cease and desist letter from Steven Zansberg, an attorney at Levine Sullivan Koch and Schultz, LLP, Rocky Mountain Student Media’s legal representation.

Zansberg wrote that applying the term “electioneering” to encompass routine news coverage “would unquestionably render the statute unconstitutional, in violation of the First Amendment’s protection for The Freedom of Speech and Of the Press.”

Zansberg’s letter acknowledged that Myers threatened to confiscate copies of the Oct. 21 edition from the Lory Student Center and requested that Myers refrain from instituting an “unconstitutionally overbroad reading of the applicable statute.”

Zansberg also referenced Citizens United v. Gessler, which prohibited Colorado’s Secretary of State from treating a documentary film about candidates running for office as electioneering communication in order to avoid an unconstitutionally overbroad construction of that statutory term.

“When a newspaper – whether it be The Collegian, The New York Times, or The Denver Post, all of whom have newsracks within 100 feet of the Lory Student Center polling location – cover a news story, including the appearance of any candidate running for office, or any measure that is on the ballot (e.g., personhood, a proposed casino in Arvada, or, in past elections, legalizing recreational marijuana), such news coverage plainly is not ‘campaigning for or against any candidate’ or ballot initiative,” Zansberg wrote.

Zansberg also noted that the polling location in question is merely a location for citizens who have already voted to drop off ballots that have already been filled out.

Myers requested Tuesday morning that Lance Wright, CSU’s director of campus activities, move the newspapers out of the 100-foot limit and asked members of the Collegian distribution team to stand outside of the radius while handing out the papers.

“We take this issue very seriously, no matter the candidate and issue,” Myers said.

In a follow-up interview with Myers, she said that in this case, the statute is unclear.

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“It’s the law that you’re not supposed to have electioneering materials in that area, and I am the enforcer of that,” Myers said.

Myers, a Republican, was appointed to the position of county clerk in May 2013 by the Larimer County Commissioners. She is running unopposed for election this year.

Executive Editor of Rocky Mountain Student Media Kate Winkle initially said she was “shocked and disappointed” that the papers had been removed, but said she looks forward to seeing them return.

“I’m just glad that there are papers in the racks again and that students can go and pick those up and be informed about important issues, election or otherwise. I do think this is a First Amendment and freedom of the press issue and I’m glad that was upheld today,” Winkle said. “I’m grateful to the other publications around the state who were also reporting on this incident. It was the press protecting the freedom of the press and I’m glad it’s been resolved.”

Collegian Content Managing Editor Kate Simmons can be reached at news@collegian.com and on Twitter @k8mckee.

UPDATE: 4:30 p.m.

The front page of Tuesday's edition of the Collegian displayed a prominent photo of Democratic Sen. Mark Udall from his visit to campus on Monday.
The front page of Tuesday’s edition of the Collegian displayed a prominent photo of Democratic Sen. Mark Udall from his visit to campus on Monday.

After receiving a cease and desist letter from Steven Zansberg, an attorney at Levine Sullivan Koch and Schultz, LLP, Rocky Mountain

Student Media’s legal representation, Larimer County Clerk Angela Myers reversed her decision Tuesday afternoon and said the Collegian will be allowed to display newspapers in the racks at the entrance to the LSC.

Zansberg’s letter acknowledged that Myers threatened to confiscate copies of the October 21, 2014 edition from the Lory Student Center and requested that Myers refrain from instituting an “unconstitutionally overbroad reading of the applicable statute.”

In a follow-up interview with Myers, she said that in this case, the statute is unclear.

It’s the law that you’re not supposed to have electioneering materials in that area, and I am the enforcer of that,” Myers said.

Zansberg wrote that applying the term “electioneering” from Colorado statute 1-13-714 to encompass routine news coverage “would unquestionably render the statute unconsitutional, in violation of the First Amendment’s protection for The Freedom of Speech and Of the Press.”

“We take this issue very seriously, no matter candidate and issue,” Myers said.

Zansberg also referenced Citizens United v. Gessler, which prohibited Colorado’s Secretary of State from treating a documentary film about candidates running for office as electioneering communication in order to avoid an unconstitutionally overbroad construction of that statutory term.

“When a newspaper – whether it be The Collegian, The New York Times, or The Denver Post, all of whom have newsracks within 100 feet of the Lory Student Center polling location – cover a news story, including the appearance of any candidate running for office, or any measure that is on the ballot (e.g., personhood, a proposed casino in Arvada, or, in past elections, legalizing recreational marijuana), such news coverage plainly is not ‘campaigning for or against any candidate’ or ballot initiative,” Zansberg wrote.

Zansberg also noted that the polling location in question is merely a location for citizens who have already voted to drop off ballots that have already been filled out.

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ORIGINAL STORY:

Larimer County Clerk and Recorder Angela Myers requested that Collegian newspapers be removed from the racks at the north end of the Lory Student Center on Tuesday morning, citing electioneering.

Electioneering is defined by Colorado statute 1-13-714 as “campaigning for or against any candidate and/or ballot issue that is on the ballot,” according to the Larimer County official website.

Myers said the Collegian was the only newspaper moved because it had a picture of  U.S. Sen. Democratic Mark Udall prominently on the cover. Udall, who appeared on campus Monday, is running for re-election and is opposed by U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner.

Collegian newspapers were removed from the North end of the LSC by the Larimer County Clerk, citing electioneering.
Tuesday’s edition of the Collegian was removed from the north end of the LSC by the Larimer County Clerk, citing electioneering. Monday’s papers were left in the racks.

Meyers referenced the Colorado Revised Statute, which states that “no electioneering may take place within a 100-foot limit of any polling location.”

“When you have a paper that has a candidate on the very front like it does, we will need that to be displayed outside the 100-foot limit,” Myers said.

The North Ballroom on the 300 level of the Lory Student Center is a ballot drop-off location. The newspaper racks are on the 100-level floor by the Transit Center. The Denver Post, USA Today and the New York Times were not removed.

Myers requested that Lance Wright, CSU’s director of campus activities, move the newspapers out of the 100-foot limit and asked members of the Collegian distribution team to stand outside of the radius while handing out the papers.

The Collegian is not in violation of the Colorado statute, according to attorney Steven Zansberg of Levine Sullivan Koch and Shultz LLP. According to Zansberg, the statute defines electioneering as campaigning and news articles are not campaigning.

“If the article were inside the paper or not right there obviously on the front cover like that, it wouldn’t be an issue, but because we are in the 100-foot limit it needs to not be there,” Myers said.

Myers also said newspapers with prominent front-page coverage of Michelle Obama’s Thursday visit to CSU’s campus would also be moved outside the 100-foot radius.

Collegian Executive Editor Kate Winkle said she is “disappointed and shocked” by the removal of the newspapers.

“It is clearly a violation of the First Amendment and freedom of the press,” Winkle said. “The Collegian was covering an event, we are not campaigning for Mark Udall and we would have had the same coverage had Cory Gardner or any politician affected by this election come to campus. I hope that the Larimer County Clerk’s office continues to respect the freedom of the press and I look forward to working with them further through the duration of the election season.”

Myers, a Republican, was appointed to the position of county clerk in May 2013 by the Larimer County Commissioners. She is running unopposed for election this year.

Collegian Content Managing Editor Kate Simmons can be reached at news@collegian.com and on Twitter @k8mckee.