Voters keep term limits for Elbert County sheriff

Mistrust of government seen as probable factor

Posted 11/6/15

For at least the second time since Colorado voters established term limits for local officials in 1994, Elbert County voters defeated a question to eliminate term limits for the office of Elbert County sheriff. Despite an active campaign supporting …

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Voters keep term limits for Elbert County sheriff

Mistrust of government seen as probable factor

Posted

For at least the second time since Colorado voters established term limits for local officials in 1994, Elbert County voters defeated a question to eliminate term limits for the office of Elbert County sheriff. Despite an active campaign supporting the measure and no organized opposition, question 1A was defeated on Nov. 3, 54.7 percent to 45.3 percent.

Chris Richardson, committee chairman for Citizens for Free Elbert County Elections, the group that petitioned the Elbert County commissioners in July to have the question placed on this November's ballot, said he was disappointed in the outcome.

“We had an overwhelming response from the rest of the county with the petition. We did a phone poll last month and had a lot indicating were in favor,” Richardson said.

With 8,142 ballots case, voter turnout in Elbert County reached just over 44 percent, and Richardson speculated that the low turnout might have been one of two factors that led to the defeat of the question.

“A lot of folks indicated they supported the measure that at the end of the day did not cast a vote, and I think within our county there is a strong mistrust of government and politicians in general. That's a strong baseline to overcome,” he said.

In 1994, Colorado voters approved Article 18 to the Colorado Constitution, which established across-the board-term limits for most of Colorado's local government officials; however, a provision in the amendment allows local voters to “lengthen, shorten, or eliminate the limitations on terms of office imposed by this Section 11.”

Since then, 58 of 64 counties have either removed the limit or increased the number of terms their sheriffs may serve.

Citizens for Free Elbert County Elections created a website advocating for the question, and its countywide campaign included road signs, social media and direct mailings.

Richardson was uncertain whether, or how soon, his organization would revisit the issue.

“We're still dipping into the numbers. We're going to sit down next week and do our own little postmortem,” he said. “Right now we have a record of about 4,500 folks that felt strongly enough to say no, so if we were to ask — again — the county commissioners to put a question on the ballot, we have to demonstrate that 4,500 or more now believed this should be pursued.”

Citizens for Free Elbert County Elections accepted donations for its campaign, and according to its website, it will donate any remaining funds to the Elbert County Sheriff's Office Deputies Fund, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) supporting serving officers, employees, and the family members of officers killed or injured in the line of duty.

Currently all of Elbert County's elected officials are limited to two terms. In November 2009, Elbert County voters defeated a general ballot measure that would have eliminated term limits for the offices of assessor, clerk and recorder, coroner, sheriff, surveyor and treasurer.

Elbert County Sheriff Shayne Heap is currently serving his second term in office. He was first elected in November 2010 and re-elected in 2014. His term expires at the end of 2018.

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