An edited version of this article appeared in the newspaper published edition of YourHub.com for Arvada, Westminster and Wheat Ridge on Thursday, December 9, 2010.
UPDATE!And ... (drum roll) ... the spokesperson for the Arvada Fire Protection District and the Fire Chief, himself --- were wrong. They didn't even know what was going on in their very own headquarters offices on November 2, 2010.
There wasn't any polling place at the AFPD headquarters. Period. Despite what spokesperson Scott Pribble and Fire Chief Jon Greer told the Arvada Press last week.
It took me, an ordinary citizen, a couple of very simple telephone calls to discover the truth. This morning I called the Colorado Secretary of State's office to find out what the situation might be if an unauthorized polling place was being operated by the district.
And I talked to the person Pribble and Greer should have talked to before making their misleading statements to the local newspaper: their very own election official at Community Resource Services in Aurora.
Pribble's and Greer's explanations to the Press were too specific to be chalked-up to confusion ... although even if one accepted befuddlement as an excuse that certainly doesn't instill much confidence in the competency of the leadership of the AFPD.
So, why did they obfuscate and mislead?
I was right -- the Arvada Fire Protection District board was wrong.
And there may be even more serious problems developing with this election ... read on.
Not only was the AFPD board and its supporters simply wrong in their claim that their special 'privatized' mail-only balloting would mean a better turnout than the regular voting conducted by the Jefferson County Clerk -- but it is now reported that not all registered voters even received a ballot for the tax hike election!
Arvada Fire Protection District board treasurer (and apparently now the "official" public scold for the fire department), Ted Terranova, was insistent about the advantages of the fire district government spending an extra $50,000+ on the 'privatized' all mail-in balloting, arguing that "this borad(sic) felt because we were asking for a mill levy increase EVERY eligible voter would have the same advantage of a mail in ballot." And later, "... you are critisizing(sic) us for trying to INCLUDE all voters." (See 'Comments', 'Put Out the Arvada Fire Tax Hike' - October 6, 2010.)
The Arvada Press of November 18, 2010, reports this:
Arvada Fire district spokesman Scott Pribble originally said the ballots would go to all registered voters in the district, but he said he recently learned the ballots actually went to all registered active voters.The newspaper went on to explain:
Only active registered voters receive mail ballots.
Active registered voters are registered at their current address. Inactive registered voters who do not vote for more than two federal general elections become unregistered. Inactive registered voters may still vote but must do so at a physical polling place."
So, a citizen who voted in a U.S. House of Representatives election or for President of the United States as recently as 2004, but not since would not have received a fire district tax hike ballot in the mail. It is important to note that the Mail Ballot Plan (PDF: Mail Ballot Plan), filed with the Colorado Secretary of State on behalf of the district by Community Services Resources, LLC (CSR) of Aurora, indicates in item five that there are "80,000 eligible electors" in the district. The AFPD, by conducting a mail-only election just for active voters EXCLUDED approximately 13,100 potential electors! These are folks who could have at least voted provisionally at a polling place run by the Jefferson County Clerk.
So much for "trying to INCLUDE all voters."
Sure enough, for the Arvada Fire Protection District tax hike election, the total number of ballots sent out by Community Resource Services, LLC of Aurora was 66,900.
The total number of ballots cast in the fire district special election was 32,164 'active' voters -- a 48 percent turnout -- less than half. (Or only a 40 percent turnout of all 'eligible electors'.)
In the general election run by the Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder, the turnout in Jefferson County was -- drum roll -- 74.3 percent.
More troubling, however, are the statements to the Arvada Press by AFPD spokesperson Pribble that "the district set up a polling place at headquarters so voting was open to all district residents even if they did not have an active voter status. A handful of residents ended up voting on 5A in person"; and by the Fire Chief: "[Jon] Greer said the polling place was available for inactive voters, just as in any other election."
If there was indeed a physical polling place open on November 2 at the AFPD headquarters, then it was functioning in direct violation of the district's Mail Ballot Plan filed with the Colorado Secretary of State. Item number nine in that plan is specifically checked and states that:
Walk-in voting locations will not be utilized because this election is being conducted as an independent mail ballot election that is not coordinated with the County Clerk and Recorder.
(PDF: Mail Ballot Plan)
Something is clearly not right with the Arvada Fire Protection District's 'privatized' 2010 special election.
Someone is not telling the truth ... or is misleading the public and the Arvada Press.
Perhaps most critically -- the AFPD fire fighters, who we all appreciate and respect for their dedication to public safety -- need to know whether or not their board of directors has acted responsibly.
With a 55 percent tax hike on the line, the citizens and taxpayers of our community have the absolute right to know exactly how this election was conducted.
The absolute right.