Republican statehouse candidate in Boulder challenges drop box compliance in lawsuit
A ballot drop box is seen outside the downtown office of the Denver Elections Division on June 28, 2022. (Quentin Young/Colorado Newsline).
A Republican candidate running for the Colorado House district that covers central Boulder has sued the county clerk over what he claims are violations of state law governing ballot drop boxes.
The candidate, William DeOreo, filed the suit against Clerk and Recorder Molly Fitzpatrick in Boulder District Court on Monday.
The suit claims that the eight drop boxes stationed throughout House District 10 “are not being monitored according to state law.” It cites a stipulation in a secretary of state rule that says county clerks must “use a video security surveillance recording system” to “monitor” each drop box location.
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DeOreo argues that the cameras currently in place to monitor the district’s drop boxes are too far away or otherwise insufficient to identify who uses the drop boxes or “ensure that no one is collecting and depositing more than the allowed 10 ballots per election.”
In response to questions from Newsline, Fitzpatrick said her office is not commenting on the lawsuit.
had not responded to a request for comment by the time of publication. In an email she wrote to DeOreo that was included as an exhibit in the lawsuit, she responded to his claims about the drop boxes.
“I see that you are concerned about being able to visually ID a face at the dropbox for the purpose of identifying if someone is depositing more than 10 ballots,” Fitzpatrick wrote to DeOreo in a June 28 email. “Please note that this is not the purpose of the video surveillance. The intention of the video surveillance for the boxes is to provide law enforcement with information if someone tried to do something to destroy the ballot box.”
DeOreo’s action is part of a wave of lawsuits from Republicans in Colorado related to elections. Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, who lost the GOP primary for secretary of state, was among a group of election-losing Republicans who filed a lawsuit earlier this month over how a recount was being handled. A pair of lawsuits filed this month in El Paso County and Mesa County seek to block the use of the voting machines used in those counties and force a hand count of ballots in the November election. A group of Republican office holders late last year sued Secretary of State Jena Griswold as part of an effort to undertake a third-party “audit” of the 2020 election in Colorado.
“The issue to me is that the way that drop boxes are set up right now, the county clerk could not detect violations of election law,” DeOreo told Newsline in an interview. “I don’t think there’s a single box that she could detect that somebody was putting more than the allowed number of ballots in, and that to me is the No. 1 issue.”
I hope Mr. DeOreo realizes that we live in a community together and after this race, he will just be a neighbor … And if he's ever willing to have a conversation that is not just inflammatory, I would be open to have that conversation with him.
– Boulder City Council member Junie Joseph, Democratic candidate for Colorado House District 10
DeOreo is representing himself in the case. He said he worked with “an assistant attorney general” from Boulder to draft the lawsuit. He declined to name her.
“I don’t think I should put her name out,” he said. “She’s just a friend of mine who’s an attorney.”
He said he attempted to find an attorney to represent him.
“It’s impossible to find an attorney, though, to work on this stuff,” he said. “I called many attorneys, and most of them were not taking new cases, or they said that this is not the area of the law that they’re practicing.”
DeOreo is running for the House District 10 seat against Democrat Junie Joseph, a Boulder city council member who was selected as the nominee by a Boulder County Democratic Party vacancy committee after the district’s current representative, Edie Hooton, announced she would not seek another term.
Joseph was born in Haiti and moved to the United States when she was 14. After she was selected as the Democratic nominee, DeOreo wrote on Nextdoor, “Do we want to be represented by a Haitian immigrant to whom top priority is immigrant rights, and voting by non-citizens?”
“The issue is she is a Haitian immigrant,” DeOreo told Newsline. “People need to think about that. Does that create any bias in her outlook?”
He said his political opposition to Joseph rests on what he views as far-left positions on such issues as zoning, homelessness, criminal justice, abortion and immigration.
“If she was a Haitian immigrant that supported my values, I’d back her 100%,” he said. “But the reason it’s important is many of the people that are coming across the southern border are from Haiti. OK? So she has a built-in conflict of interest. She supports everything related to immigrant rights.”
Joseph, a lawyer who worked for the U.N. office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva before moving to Boulder to attend the University of Colorado Boulder law school, said she does support immigrant rights. But she has been transparent about those values, and they helped earn her the District 10 nomination, she said.
“We really care about our immigrant population here in Boulder, and I think the people in the vacancy committee picked me because they feel, as I was talking with them, I was reflecting back to them their values,” Joseph said. “I was elected to the Boulder City Council based on the values that I expressed, and I was very vocal about them. And this time around is the same thing.”
Joseph added, “I hope Mr. DeOreo realizes that we live in a community together and after this race, he will just be a neighbor … And if he’s ever willing to have a conversation that is not just inflammatory, I would be open to have that conversation with him.”
DeOreo asked the court to issue an emergency injunction ordering Fitzpatrick to bring the District 10 drop boxes “into compliance with the laws,” or to rule that the boxes cannot be used. House District 10 is one of the bluest in the state. Democrats have a 74 percentage point advantage, according to an analysis by state redistricting staff.
Editor’s note: This story was updated at 8:14 p.m., Aug. 30, 2022, to reflect that Clerk Molly Fitzpatrick declined to comment on the lawsuit.
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