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Figueroa v. Speers

Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc

March 2, 2015

Enrico Figueroa, Brian Vande Krol, Joseph Holt, Mark Rule, and Melissa Wills, and Plaintiff-Intervenor: Wayne W. Williams, in his official capacity as Colorado Secretary of State, Plaintiffs-Appellants:
v.
Amy Speers, and Intervenors-Appellees: Karen Marquez, Nicole S. Hanlen, James H. Joy, and David J. Rodenbaugh, Defendant-Appellee:

Appeal from the District Court District Court, City and County of Broomfield, Case No. 13CV30306.

SYLLABUS

In this election contest, the supreme court considers: (1) whether a candidate in a nonpartisan election was legally elected despite not meeting the residency requirement to serve the position, and if not; (2) whether her only opponent was thereby legally elected. The supreme court holds that (1) the unqualified candidate was legally elected despite not meeting the residency requirement because she received the most legal votes and her certification to the ballot was not challenged in court prior to the end of election day, and (2) her opponent thus was not legally elected. Because the candidate who was legally elected is not qualified to serve in the office for which she was elected, the supreme court upholds the trial court's declaration of a vacancy in the contested office

Attorneys for Plaintiffs-Appellants: Hackstaff & Snow, LLC, Mario D. Nicolais, Megan Murphy, Denver, Colorado.

Attorneys for Intervenors-Appellees: Heizer Paul LLP, Edward T. Ramey, Martha M. Tierney, Denver, Colorado.

No appearance on behalf of Wayne W. Williams or Amy Speers.

OPINION

RICE, CHIEF JUSTICE

Page 968

Plaintiffs-Appellants appeal the Broomfield district court's judgment in their election contest directly to us under section 1-11-214(2), C.R.S. (2014). The district court declared a vacancy in the Adams County School District 12 Director District 4 school board director position because Defendant-Appellee Amy Speers was elected but unqualified to serve. Plaintiffs-Appellants assert that, contrary to the district court's holding, Plaintiff-Appellant Enrico Figueroa should have been declared " legally elected" because he received the highest number of votes of any qualified candidate. We hold that, although Speers was unqualified to serve, no court declared her to be unqualified until after voting had been completed. In this situation, the legally elected party is the party who receives the most legal votes. Thus, Speers was legally elected because she received the most legal votes, meaning Figueroa was not legally elected. The district court therefore correctly voided her election and declared a vacancy under the provisions of Colorado's election code, and its judgment is affirmed.

I. Facts and Procedural History

This case arises from a contested two-candidate nonpartisan election for a school board director position in Adams County School District 12 (" the School District" ). The School District is split into various director districts, and while eligible electors may vote for board members in all districts, only a resident of a particular district may run for that district's school board position. In 2011, both Figueroa and Speers applied to fill the then-vacant Director District 4 position on the Adams County Board of Education. At that time, both Figueroa and Speers resided within the boundaries of Director District 4 and were qualified to hold the position. The board of education appointed Figueroa to fill the vacant position until the next election in November 2013.

As the November 2013 election approached, Figueroa and Speers each submitted timely petitions to be candidates for the soon-to-open Director District 4 position.

Page 969

Although both potential candidates signed affidavits affirming that they met all the requisite qualifications to hold the office, unbeknownst to Speers, the School District had redrawn the director districts in 2012 and had placed Speers's home outside of Director District 4. The School District's designated election officer, Frances E. Mullins, was also unaware that Speers no longer met the residency requirement, and so she deemed both petitions sufficient. Neither the sufficiency of Speers's petition nor her certification to the ballot was challenged within the respective five-day windows under section 1-4-909(1), C.R.S. (2014) (allowing five days to challenge the sufficiency of a petition before certification), or section 1-4-501(3), C.R.S. (2014) (allowing five additional days to challenge ...


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