This column was written before Tuesday’s midterm election, and as best I can tell, the election (at least in Colorado unlike, say, Georgia) has yet to generate serious charges of election law criminal offenses.
So I thought about this: What constitutes an election law criminal offense in Colorado?
I quickly found this to be a complex topic.
All of Title 1 of the Colorado Revised Statutes deals with election law matters. I did, however, find a few interesting items to share:
• It is illegal to knowingly or recklessly make a false statement designed to affect the vote on any issue before voters or relating to any candidate.
“Recklessly” means a conscious disregard for whether a statement is true or false. (Note: As best I can tell from recent campaign propaganda, there is little enthusiasm on the part of prosecutors to enforce this law.)
• During a period from 45 days before and four days after an election, it is illegal to hinder the distribution of written material relating to any candidate or issue, or to remove, deface or destroy any lawfully placed billboard, sign or other written material.
• It is illegal to use force or other means to “unduly” (whatever that means) influence an elector to vote in any particular manner or not vote.
• It is illegal to falsely make, alter, forge, counterfeit, deface, mutilate or tamper with any mail-in ballot.
• It is illegal to interfere with, or refuse to comply with, rules from the Secretary of State’s Office on its many election-related duties.
• It is illegal for anyone, including a candidate for public office, to bet on an election. (Note: Since betting on sports events is now legal, could this be next?)
There is only one reported case in Colorado dealing with an election bet.
In that case, which goes back to the 1890s, a man named O.W. Keith, who was elected mayor of Gillett (a defunct town near Cripple Creek), was accused by the town’s board of trustees of betting on the election.
For that and several other reasons, the board of trustees removed Keith from office.
Keith fought back with a lawsuit and was reinstated as mayor. Whether he actually bet on the election was never decided. The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled that, even if he bet on the election (a crime), the board of trustees could not use that to remove him as mayor.
These offenses are misdemeanors punishable by fines and jail time.