GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KREX) — UPDATE: Grand Junction issues response to Diane Schwenke’s Attorney;
The letter Grand Junction City Attorney wrote to City Council candidate Diane Schwenke states the city strongly believes it lawfully conducted the 2023 Election and would not count or cure rejected ballots per her attorney’s recent demand.
Diane Schwenke responded to the letter, telling KREX she would not make a decision on whether to take legal action until the results are finalized and announced Thursday, April 13.
Voters submitted 18,500 ballots for this year’s city council election.
It was a close race between Scott Beilfuss and Diane Schwenke, with only 230 votes dividing the two candidates. Bielfus won the most votes.
But there were a few hundred extra rejected ballots, 382 to be exact.
The city can reject ballots for a number of reasons, like turning ballots in late. But the votes Diane says concerned her are the ones rejected due to incomplete information, for instance ballots missing a printed name, date or signature.
A separate group of around 100 voters received a letter from the city informing them of their rejected ballots, which in this case was due to the signatures on the ballots not matching what they had on record. The city gave those voters, who had properly included their name, date and signature, a chance to cure their ballot over a certain timeframe.
Schwenke argued the 382 rejected ballots should be counted because the missing information does not affect the way each individual voted. City attorneys and winning candidate Scott Beilfuss agreed directions on the votes were clear enough for every voter to understand, and if the directions are not followed, the vote cannot be counted. This is not a new process, they argue.
Schwenke hired a Denver law firm to write a letter to the city of Grand Junction, threatening possible legal action if the city did not cure or count the rejected ballots.
Schwenke claimed she questions the process, not the outcome, and that every voter should trust the process. She also admitted the rejected ballots would probably not change the outcome of her race. Schwenke, who says every voter who sends in their ballot deserves to have their voice heard told KREX she had never voiced similar concerns regarding past elections in which she was not a candidate. Bielfus told KREX all city council candidates were clearly instructed on the ballot counting process back in January and Schwenke raised no concerns at that time.
City Attorney John Shaver ended his letter to Schwenke’s attorney by declining her demand to count or cure the rejected ballots. He wrote, “While your letter urges immediate correction, we respectfully decline as we find no basis in the MEC to conduct the Election other than we have done. It is our position that the mandatory word shall, together with the other provisions of C.R.S. 31-10-910, are clear, and that electors were fully advised of the requirement for a ballot to be counted, and that any failure by an elector to complete his/her ballot as provided in the election process is the responsibility of the elector not the City.
Should you wish to discuss these matters, please call, or write as you prefer.“