Custer County’s contentious election

How big was that ballot? Custer County Clerk Kelley Camper and Secretary of State Wayne Williams enjoy a light-hearted moment during a tour of the polling center Friday in Westcliffe. (SOS photo)

The voter turnout in Custer County will likely end up one of the highest in the state, fueled by an attempt to recall the three county commissioners and a measure to enact building codes countywide.

So far the turnout has hit 48 percent for the election, with ballots due by 7 p.m. Tuesday.

“There’s just a lot of interest,” Clerk and Recorder Kelley Camper said told Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams during his visit Friday to Westcliffe. He earlier that day visited clerks in Las Animas and Huerfano counties.

Camper told Williams she was on the phone with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office quite a bit over the summer and fall, boning up on rules for a recall election. Williams is very familiar with those rules: When he served as the El Paso County clerk and recorder he oversaw several recall elections, including the recall of the state Senate president in 2013 over the Democrat’s support for tougher gun laws.

The Take Back Custer County Recall Committee is attempting to recall commissioners Bob Kattnig, Donna Hood and Jay Printz, all Republicans, alleging violation of public meeting laws.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Custer County Clerk Kelley Camper and the ballot drop box installed outside the courthouse. (SOS photo)

Williams toured the voter service and polling center that opened Monday and allows residents to vote in person, as well as checking out the 24-hour ballot box installed outside the back of the courthouse. Camper said the drop box is very popular with voters, who don’t have to get out of their vehicle to drop off their ballot and can do it at all hours of the day.

Williams has been instrumental in getting counties to install drop boxes to ensure clerks receive ballots in a timely manner.

The ballots sent to Custer County voters include a statement for why the recall was sought. In addition to allegations of violating open meetings laws, the commission was accused of  “Disrespect for Citizens and Employees” and the “removal of our award winning County Extension Agent.”

The ballots also include the responses from the three county commissioners, who are asking for a “no” vote on the recall.

“I have kept my campaign promises,” Kattnig said, in part. “I continue to conduct county business in an open and transparent manner and in accordance to the Sunshine Law. We must work together to take our County forward.”

“The most distressing issues handled by the Commissioners have been the neglect and mismanagement left over from prior administrations, ” Printz said, in part.

And Hood said she was using her 36 years of experience as a chief financial officer. “Policies, procedures and job descriptions have been updated which had not been done in seven years,” she stated.

The town of Westcliffe in scenic Custer County.

Planning is one of the issues that has divided Custer County’s 4,602 residents — up from 3,503 after the 2000 census.

“One segment of residents (which includes ranchers) would like to see the County preserved in its present state as a mountain paradise with its rural ranching culture, with strict limitation on development. Another segment of the population would like to see less government and less restrictions on growth and development for the growth of business and the economy,” according to an Internet entry.

There also are school issues on the Custer County ballot.

Williams earlier visited with clerks in Las Animas and Huerfano counties.