An Elbert County group called Citizens for Free Elections has launched a petition drive in an effort to eliminate the two-term limit for the office of Elbert County sheriff.
In a June 2 press release, the group wrote to Elbert County residents: …
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In a June 2 press release, the group wrote to Elbert County residents: “Please join this community initiative to eliminate the state-imposed term-limit on the position of County Sheriff. We, the residents of Elbert County, should define what is best when it comes to electing our Sheriff.”
Chris Richardson, committee chairman, who is an individual supporter of Sheriff Shayne Heap, said that the organization has advised the sheriff of their intentions, but Heap is not involved with the grassroots movement.
“This is not about electing a sheriff for life,” Richardson said. “He (Heap) is aware that we are doing this and is being very professional. He knows this is not about him. It's about his position.”
In 1994, the state's voters approved an amendment to the Colorado Constitution limiting the terms of county elected officials who serve four-year terms to two consecutive terms in office.
Article 18, Section 11 of the Colorado Constitution permits local voters to modify the term limits, “The voters of any such political subdivision may lengthen, shorten, or eliminate the limitations on terms of office imposed by this Section 11.”
Heap is currently serving his second term as sheriff and was elected to office in 2010. He was re-elected in 2014, running unopposed. His term expires at the end of 2018.
A similar ballot measure was attempted in support of neighboring Douglas County Sheriff Dave Weaver in November 2011. Ballot Question 1A proposed increasing the number of four-year terms the county's sheriff may legally serve from two to three. Douglas County voters did not back the measure, voting Ballot Question 1A down by a tally of just over 60 percent (26,735 in favor and 40,415 against).
Richardson says Citizens for Free Elections is not worried about the 2011 outcome in Douglas County, pointing out that 43 other counties in Colorado have already modified their term limits for county sheriffs.
“It's fairly widespread, particularly in the smaller counties where the pool to draw qualified candidates is much smaller,” he said.
According to Dallas Schroeder, Elbert County clerk and recorder, the group will need to petition the Board of County Commissioners to add the issue to its agenda and put it to a vote as to whether the question would appear on the ballot in November.
“There is no statutory way for the citizens of the county to get something on the ballot,” Schroeder said. “It must go before the BOCC.”
Though the number of signatures obtained by Citizens for Free Elections is not legally binding on the BOCC, the group plans to continue collecting signatures through the July 4 weekend to demonstrate community support when it takes the question to the BOCC at a regularly scheduled meeting in July.
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