BROOMFIELD, Colo. — A lawsuit challenging an election in which voters narrowly approved a five-year ban on fracking in Broomfield County went to trial on Monday, with witnesses testifying about how ballots were handled, sorted and stored.
State and local officials and an election monitor were called as witnesses before District Judge Chris Melonakis. Closing arguments were expected Tuesday, the Boulder Daily Camera reported (http://tinyurl.com/n5o2znd ).
Even if Melonakis invalidates the results, it wasn't clear whether he could order another election. Attorneys on both sides have said it's uncertain if the law gives the courts that authority.
Unofficial results on the night of the Nov. 5 election indicated the ban failed by 13 votes, but a recount showed it passed by 20 votes out of more than 20,000 cast.
Questions were raised about possibly ineligible voters and uncounted ballots, and election monitors complained they weren't given adequate access to the counting process. The Broomfield Balanced Energy Coalition and a member of It's Our Broomfield, Too — groups that oppose the ban — filed the lawsuit.
Stephanie Mann of the Colorado Secretary of State's Office testified about a critical report on the election released by the office.
It said the county counted an unspecified number of ballots from ineligible voters and rejected ballots from legitimate voters. It also said officials wrongly discounted ballots that were delivered to clerks in other counties.
Other witnesses testified about a box discovered after the election that included ballots that had been returned as undeliverable or marked as spoiled. Broomfield officials later said the box contained no ballots that should have been counted.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, uses water, sand and chemicals under high pressure to loosen formations deep underground and release oil and natural gas. Critics say the chemicals and fumes could pollute water and air. The energy industry maintains the practice is safe.
Information from: Daily Camera, http://www.dailycamera.com/