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Judge upholds vote that OK'd county fracking ban in Colorado
February 28, 2014 - Ben Klein
BROOMFIELD, Colo. (AP) — A judge on Thursday upheld the results of a bitterly disputed election in the city and county of Broomfield that narrowly approved a five-year ban on fracking.
The judge ruled the November election had problems but was not illegal, the Boulder Daily Camera reported (http://tinyurl.com/ol5sxbj ).
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, uses water, sand and chemicals under high pressure to loosen formations deep underground and release oil and natural gas. Critics say the chemicals and fumes could pollute water and air. The energy industry maintains the practice is safe.
The ban passed by 20 votes out of more than 20,000 votes cast, and questions were raised about the possibility of ineligible voters and uncounted ballots. Some of the votes at issue include military and overseas ballots that were mailed to Adams County and were not counted because they were forwarded to Broomfield after election day.
Election monitors also complained they weren't given adequate access to the counting process.
The Broomfield Balanced Energy Coalition and a member of It's Our Broomfield, Too — groups that oppose the ban — filed the lawsuit challenging the results.
The Balanced Energy Coalition issued a statement saying it was disappointed by the ruling. B.J. Nikkel, a spokeswoman for the group, said no decision has been made on whether to appeal.
District Judge Chris Melonakis said Broomfield election officials acted in good faith. He said confusing new voter residency requirements and the narrow margin of the results contributed to the chaos in the election process.
"The steps taken (by Broomfield) were a reasonable, if imperfect, attempt to insure full extension of the franchise and prevention of voter fraud," Melonakis said in his ruling.
Bill Tuthill, Broomfield's city and county attorney, said the ruling validates Broomfield's effort to run a fair election.
"We said all along that there was no basis to overturn the results, and the court has agreed," he said.
Broomfield officials said they plan to update and improve their elections system. They delayed a review of the process until the verdict.
Voters in three other Front Range cities passed fracking bans in November — Boulder, Lafayette and Fort Collins.
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