County Clerk Attempts To Ban Student Newspaper For Running A Story About Senator

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Greg Campbell Contributor
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A Republican county clerk in Colorado ordered a student newspaper to remove copies of Tuesday’s edition from an area where students can drop off ballots, arguing that its front cover featuring a picture of incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall during a recent campus visit violated state electioneering laws.

“When you have a paper that has a candidate on the very front like it does, we will need that to be displayed outside the 100-foot limit,” Larimer County Clerk Angela Myers told Colorado State University’s student newspaper, The Rocky Mountain Collegian.

That is flatly wrong, said Denver media attorney Steve Zansberg, who represents the Fort Collins paper.

“When a newspaper — whether it be The Collegian, the New York Times, or the Denver Post, all of whom have newsracks within 100 feet of the Lory Student Center polling location — cover[s] a news story, including the appearance of any candidate running for office, or any measure that is on the ballot … such news coverage plainly is not ‘campaigning for or against any candidate’ or ballot initiative,” Zansberg wrote in a letter to Myers.

The photo accompanied a straightforward news article about Udall’s visit and Collegian Executive Editor Kate Winkle called Myers’ order a “clear violation of the First Amendment.”

“The Collegian was covering an event,” Winkle said in an article in the Collegian. “[W]e are not campaigning for Mark Udall and we would have had the same coverage had [his Republican challenger] Cory Gardner or any politician affected by this election come to campus.”

Myers’ attempt to remove the paper caught the attention of media blogger Jim Romenesko, the Denver Post and local TV stations.

By late afternoon Tuesday, Myers had reconsidered, but told the Collegian the statute about electioneering is vague. While allowing the papers to be returned to their racks near the balloting location, she told the Denver Post that she would discuss the issue with the Colorado Secretary of State for future elections.

“It’s the law that you’re not supposed to have electioneering materials in that area, and I am the enforcer of that,” Myers is quoted as saying in an online update to the Collegian’s story.

Zansberg wrote that if Myers had continued to enforce her order, she would be applying an interpretation of the statute that “would unquestionably render the statute unconsitutional, in violation of the First Amendment’s protection for The Freedom of Speech and Of the Press.”

Myers is running unopposed for reelection.

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Greg Campbell