State Rep. Tracey Bernett, left. (Courtesy of the office of Rep. Tracey Bernett)
The Boulder district attorney Friday filed felony charges against state Rep. Tracey Bernett for allegedly lying about the location of her primary residence.
Bernett, a Democrat, first won election to the state Legislature in 2020 as the representative from House District 12. She lived in Longmont, but the subsequent once-a-decade redistricting process last year put her home in House District 19, which is represented by Republican Rep. Dan Woog.
District 12 leans heavily Democratic, while District 19 slightly favors Republicans. In November last year, Bernett rented an apartment in Louisville, in District 12, and is running for reelection claiming the Louisville apartment as her new primary residence.
Michael Dougherty, the Democratic district attorney in Boulder, alleges that’s a lie.
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“Ms. Bernett falsely represented her primary residence over a nine-month period,” a press release from Dougherty’s office said. “It is alleged that, although she rented an apartment in Louisville in order to qualify for elected office, she did not actually live there.”
Colorado statute requires that state representatives live in a district for at least a year before they can be elected to represent it.
Bernett is also accused of voting in the June 28 primary election as a resident of a district in which she did not live.
Bernett did not respond to a Newsline request for comment.
The 67-year-old Bernett surrendered to authorities and was released on a personal recognizance bond of $10,000. She is due in court on Nov. 17.
She faces one charge of attempt to influence a public servant, a class 4 felony; one charge of residence-false information, a class 5 felony; forgery, a class 5 felony; perjury, a class 2 misdemeanor; and procuring false registration, a class 2 misdemeanor.
Bernett is on the ballot as the Democratic candidate for District 12 in Tuesday’s general election.
According to an arrest warrant affidavit, on Nov. 3, 2021, Bernett rented an apartment in Louisville and changed her Tesla registration to incorporate the Louisville address. And it says that effective Nov. 3 she changed her voter registration according to the new Louisville address and submitted a candidate affidavit with the new address to the secretary of state’s office.
Investigators say Bernett’s husband still lives at the Longmont address, her current driver’s license states she lives in Longmont, “numerous Facebook posts and photographs” indicate she lives in Longmont, and her interaction with a Boulder police officer during a July traffic stop affirmed Longmont is her true home.
The most stark evidence that Bernett does not primarily live in Louisville, according to the affidavit, came during a search of the apartment, which investigators conducted on Sept. 28.
“There were no food items in the refrigerator other than a bottle of sparkling cider, soy sauce and a Smucker’s spread in the door,” the affidavit says. “Cobwebs were attached to the cabinets … The apartment was spartanly furnished with no personal or family photographs and no indication of a pet (contrary to social media posts about her cat).”
Other parts of the apartment contained minimal personal items. The garage contained “nothing.”
“The search made it clear that no one has been living in the apartment on a regular basis or using it as their residence,” the affidavit says.
Cell phone and other records supported this conclusion.
One witness, a resident of the complex that encompasses Bernett’s apartment, told an investigator that she saw Bernett only once, and that she “wanted to take a selfie with (the witness) showing the complex,” the affidavit says, adding that the witness “said that it seemed like she was trying to make people think she actually lived at the complex.”
The district attorney’s investigation started with a complaint from Theresa Watson, chair of the Boulder County Republicans.
The chair of the Colorado Republican Party, Kristi Burton Brown, issued a statement on Bernett.
“The people of HD-12 deserve a representative in Denver who actually lives in this district and who knows the issues facing these citizens,” Burton Brown said. “Tracey Bernett is not that voice. Bernett disenfranchised Colorado voters by lying about where she voted and where she lives and in effect, undermined our democracy. It’s also concerning to me that (Colorado Secretary of State) Jena Griswold apparently didn’t do her job or was complicit in this illegal deceit of voters that threatens democracy.
Bernett is one of several state lawmakers who have faced questions about their post-redistricting residency. Others include Democratic Sen. Pete Lee, Democratic Rep. Kyle Mullica, and Republican Sen. Dennis Hisey. A judge said Mullica did not violate the law, and a judge tossed an illegal voting charge against Lee. No legal complaint has been filed against Hisey.
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