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Main Street in the small Gunnison County town of Pitkin, elevation 9,242 feet and population of less than 100 year-round residents. In 2016 the town held its first municipal election in a decade. Controversy arose over short-term rentals and 10 voters were reported for improperly casting ballots. (Dean Krakel, Special to The Colorado Sun)

It’s the small-town controversy with no end in sight. 

Dan Hostenpiller, the 7th Judicial District attorney, has asked the Colorado Supreme Court to review the overturned illegal voting conviction from a tiny Gunnison County town, warning that without a remedy his ability to stop people from unlawfully casting ballots is in jeopardy.

It’s a rare step, especially given that the question stems from a relatively minor misdemeanor conviction for voting in the wrong precinct. 

But Hotsenpiller says it’s necessary because without a new decision from the state’s highest court, there could be problems in his six-county district during the 2020 election cycle.

“The district court’s order will control our ability to regulate elections offenses in the entire 7th Judicial District unless it’s fixed,” he said. 

The case dates back to the April 2016 municipal elections in Pitkin, near Gunnison, after which Hotsenpiller’s office charged eight people with voting offenses. All pleaded guilty except for Marie Rossmiller, who fought the allegations but was eventually convicted.

MORE: Big questions about voting rights — and short-term rentals — splinter tiny Colorado town of Pitkin

The case drew the attention of then-Secretary of State Wayne Williams’ office, which lambasted Hotsenpiller’s decision to bring charges against any of the voters and asked for a federal criminal probe of the prosecutions. Williams left office in January.

In May, a Gunnison County District Court judge overturned Rossmiller’s conviction, saying that prosecutors had failed to prove that she intended to commit fraud by unlawfully voting

Hotsenpiller said that by requiring proof that someone intended to commit fraud before they can be found guilty of voting in the wrong precinct, his ability to prosecute cases of voter wrongdoing has been effectively neutered. 

Marie Rossmiller, 74, was one of 10 people reported to local prosecutors for investigation of improperly casting ballots in Pitkin. She says she was reported because she lives in Aurora during the winter. (Dean Krakel, Special to The Colorado Sun)

“What’s at stake here is statewide, consistent regulation and voting requirements,” he said. 

It’s not clear how long it might take the Colorado Supreme Court to decide whether or not to take on the case. 

As for Rossmiller, she told The Colorado Sun earlier this year that she just wants to be done with the case.  “I didn’t do anything wrong,” she said. 

The Colorado Sun —

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Jesse Paul is a Denver-based political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is the author of The Unaffiliated newsletter and also occasionally fills in on breaking news coverage.

A Colorado College graduate, Jesse worked at The Denver Post from June 2014 until July 2018, when he joined The Sun. He was also an intern at The Gazette in Colorado Springs and The News Journal in Wilmington, Delaware, his hometown.

Jesse has won awards for long form feature writing, public service reporting, sustained coverage and deadline news reporting.

Email: Twitter: @jesseapaul