Change in election legislation cuts candidate out of petition process

RBC | Gary Moyer will be inducted as the new county commissioner as of January 2019, filling Shawn Bolton’s seat.

At the Republican county assembly March 17, Moyer received 47 of 53 delegate votes, earning a place on the ballot. Mike Hoke, who entered the Republican race late, received six votes. Hoke needed 16, but still had the option to petition for a slot on the ballot.

However, legislation at the state level last year changed the deadline for petitions to be turned in. This year’s petitions were due March 20, instead of in April. Hoke was notified Tuesday that his petition—he’d collected more than 300 signatures since the March 17 assembly—was invalidated because of the change.

“I’m very unhappy with this legislation,” said Rio Blanco County Clerk and Recorder Boots Campbell.

RBC Republican Party President Logan Hill echoed Campbell’s sentiment. “The State Republican Party failed to communicate the rule change with the counties. Allowing enough time for candidates that didn’t gain ballot access at the county assembly to petition onto the ballot is the way things have been done for a very long time. I find it incredibly frustrating that the legislature changed the date and that the party failed to make sure the counties knew what a big change this date would play in the way primary races are handled. I am deeply concerned that this is a move to protect incumbent politicians while limiting the field of challengers. I hope Mr. Hoke will consider running again in four years, as the voters are best served when they have a choice. I believe the assembly process is a true expression of representative government, however candidates should also have the ability to gain ballot access with a petition and the new time constraints severely limit that.”

Moyer declined to make a statement at this time.

Hoke can run as a write-in candidate for the June primary if he completes an affidavit of intention form by April 20.

“I concede I entered the race for county commissioner fairly late, one day before the delegates were chosen for the caucus,” Hoke said in a written statement. “I did so after being requested to run by certain members of the community and after much thought and prayer. I believe I am qualified, not just through my experience, but because I care about—and listen to—the people of this county. I was disappointed when 47 of 53 delegates decided only one person should be on the ballot, but I still had hope that through the petition process I could get my name on the ballot. I worked hard and spoke with many people, obtaining 300 signatures within approximately one week’s time and planned to obtain as many as possible before April 2, the supposed deadline. As we now know, I was misinformed about the deadline and it seems my labor was in vain. There is only one name on the ballot in the “race” for county commissioner. The only option left to me is to enter as a ‘write-in’ candidate where people would need to do just that, write my name on the ballot. As you can imagine, this puts me at a great disadvantage and I am undecided at this point how and if to proceed.

I want the people of this county to know I greatly appreciate all the support I have been given through this process. You are the reason I decided to run. This turn in events, however, has given me pause and I need help in making a decision before the April 20 deadline. I am requesting the public’s input on this matter and would appreciate any comments or suggestions. Please contact me via email at mhoke2018@gmail.com

Thank you again for your support.”

This primary election will be the first time in Colorado unaffiliated (independent) voters will be able to vote in the primaries. Previously, you had to be registered as a party member to vote in the primary election.

There are 3,836 active registered voters in the county, and 664 inactive voters who can activate their registration by filling out a form at the courthouse up to the day of the election. You can check your voter registration status at https://www.sos.state.co.us/voter/pages/pub/olvr/findVoterReg.xhtml.

Among active voters in Rio Blanco County, there are 2,653 Republicans, 306 Democrats and 830 unaffiliated voters. There are 281 inactive Republicans, 49 inactive Democrats and 327 inactive unaffiliated voters. Most inactive statuses are related to mailing problems or failure to vote in the last two elections.

Only 40 percent of active, registered Rio Blanco County voters returned ballots in the 2017 election, which included school board elections and mill levy items.