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Incorporation election commission: unequal – and illegal ?- representation

With the petition approved by an El Paso County district court allowing the Falcon Incorporation Committee to move forward with their bid to designate Falcon as a town, the focus has turned to organizing the election. The first step in this process is the selection of an election official ñ someone neutral to the issue ñ to oversee the election.Thomas Cline is the election official ñ and the chairman of the Falcon Incorporation Committee.As the May 29 election draws near, it is the election officialís duty to provide a fair and unbiased election, said John Bass, El Paso County clerk and recorderís election manager. ìA designated election official should be some type of neutral party to oversee the election itself,î he said. ìIt should be someone who ensures integrity in the election process, and makes sure representation from both sides is accounted for.îBass said because the district court defers to the designated election official to manage the election, it is up to the election official, in this case Cline, to guarantee equal representation on both sides of the issue.If the district court does not receive an ample amount of name submissions to form the election commission, the court again defers to the election official to gather the names of people and organize the election commission.Proponents and opponents have the opportunity to submit names for poll watchers, ballot counting watchers, polling place judges or commission members, Bass said.An election commission member must be a resident of the area and a registered voter in the county.Typically, names can be submitted at the time when the incorporation plan is filed with the district court, he said.Liz Olson, El Paso County election department assistant election manager, said the election commission is typically comprised of five to nine citizens.She confirmed that the Falcon election commissioners have been appointed.All of the recent appointees to the election commission serve on the pro-incorporation committee. According to a March 28 Ranchland News article, ìEight residents were appointed as election commissioners: Thomas Cline, Marcus Short, Jean Woolsey, Mark Schermer, Bobby Deck, Samuel Leffler, Karen Deck and Carlene Leffler.ìCline was chosen to be the Clerk of Election.îWith the exception of Sam Lefflerís wife, Carlene, all of the election commissioners are listed on the FIC Web site as incorporation members. On Nov. 9, the Ranchland News published a front-page picture identifying the Falcon incorporation committee members ñ the same individuals listed as election commissioners. Carlene Leffler was included in the picture, along with Carolyn Myers.Bass said that unequal representation within an election commission could be attributed to the actions of the designated election official or a lack of interest from other citizens.Or a lack of knowledge about the incorporation efforts. According to a March 2006 e-mail to Cline from Carolyn Myers, FIC member and consultant to the Falcon incorporation process, Myers suggested that Cline cease talking to the media or anyone else about the incorporation efforts.To avoid a challenge of the election results, Bass said it is important to appoint commission members from both sides of the issue. ìThe implications of why there is no representation of the opposing view is fundamental,î Bass said. ìThe issue is either ëwere you snoozing,í or is there a challenge because the opposition was denied fair representation?îThe election officialís duties also include selecting a designated polling place and equipment verification for vote tabulation, if electronic equipment, such as an optical scan unit or touch screen device, is used in the voting process. Equipment can be leased from the EPC clerk and recorderís office. It also is the officialís duty to ensure the integrity of the machine remains intact during the election, Bass said.In a smaller election with a fewer number of voters, ballots are usually tallied by hand, he said.Bass also said it is in the best interest of the election official to appoint one to two individuals from each side of the issue to tabulate voting results. ìUsually, when you wind up in a challenge, itís not because of the vote, but how the vote yielded its numbers,î Bass said.Bass said a challenge is usually requested after an election is over, and a district court rarely intervenes prior to an election unless there has been a grievous error made which could halt the election, Bass said. ìTypically, challenges are retrospective.îEditorís note: Thomas Cline did not respond to an April 12 phone call from reporter Stefani Wiest requesting a comment on the Falcon election commission.On the following three dates, Falcon residents can visit with incorporation committee members, who are the election commissioners as well, about the incorporation vote. This information was taken from the Falcon Incorporation Committee’s Web site:

  • May 20: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. – Bob Deck’s Allstate office in Falcon
  • May 22: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. – Big R on Highway 24 in Falcon
  • May 24: 2 p.m. to 7 – no information was given for place
For more information, contact Tom Cline, election clerk, at 683-5755.The vote is scheduled for May 29, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Falcon Fire Protection District station at 7030 N. Meridian Road.

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