A name that keeps popping up in coverage of debate over a local elections bill in the Colorado legislature is former Aspen mayoral candidate Marilyn Marks, who increasingly seems to be a central player in GOP efforts to "crack down" on supposed "vote fraud." As the Colorado Springs Gazette's Megan Schrader reported Monday evening:
One of the state's most tenacious and controversial poll watchers – Marilyn Marks – sat on the Senate floor during debate Monday in opposition to HB1164. Marks and her advocacy group The Citizen Center have been in the middle of controversies in Pueblo County and in Broomfield during election results tabulation and recounting.
Ulibarri wouldn't say whether the change in law was in response to conflicts with Marks, but he did say it was inappropriate for Marks – a lobbyist in all but official registration – to be sitting with Republicans helping to draft amendments.
"I wish I were a lobbyist because then someone would be paying me for what I'm doing," Marks said, adding she was invited to the Senate floor by several lawmakers.
"I was responding to their invitation," she said.
FOX 31's Eli Stokols adds:
Marilyn Marks, the Aspen activist known for fighting mail ballots — her lawsuit successfully challenging the election law Democrats passed last year to require that all voters receive mail ballots resulted in mail ballots being tossed out during two recall elections last September — may have been a driving force behind the sudden GOP opposition to the proposal.
Marks was seated on the Senate floor during Monday morning’s debate, as a guest of one of the Republican lawmakers.
Sen. Jessie Ulibarri's concern about Mark's murky status while a "guest" on the Senate floor Monday appears to have sound basis in Senate rules, which read thusly:
The desks, materials, and papers of Senators are not to be touched by any person other than Senate employees under the direction of the sergeant-at-arms or the secretary of the Senate. Persons visiting the Senate chambers are not permitted to place material upon the desks of Senators. Any material that any person desires to have distributed to the desks of one or more Senators, except through the mail, must be delivered to the sergeant-at-arms… [Pols emphasis]
Lobbyists shall not be permitted on the floor of the Senate unless the lobbyist is a former member who is otherwise authorized pursuant to this subsection (a) to address the members of the Senate regarding a Senate memorial, Senate joint memorial, or House joint memorial expressing sentiment on the death of any person who served as a member of the Senate.
Bottom line: this was a member of the public passing notes directly to legislators on the Senate floor. Under the rules quoted above, this looks like a violation even if she were not a lobbyist. Regardless, though, Marks should not have been on the Senate floor at all–because she should by all accounts be registered as a volunteer lobbyist.
As we briefly mentioned in our 2013 recap series, there are a lot of unanswered questions about the role of Marilyn Marks in recent GOP opposition to election reform legislation. We've heard, as one example, that Secretary of State Scott Gessler has had a longstanding close relationship with Marks which has not been reported in the press. There's no question that Marks' lawsuit during the recall elections last summer had the effect of tilting the playing field to Republicans by eliminating mail ballots. Marks' personal motives have been attributed to a pedantic fixation with "vote fraud" after losing the Aspen mayoral election a few years ago, and she has quickly acquired a reputation for being kind of…well, eccentric is the word one politely uses for crazy people with money.
In any event, as a qualified source succinctly put it to us, we don't need lobbyists close enough to actually put their hands in the puppet on the Senate floor.