Boulder County prosecutors announced Friday the filing of felony and misdemeanor charges against Democratic state Rep. Tracey Bernett alleging that she lied about her residence to run for reelection this year in a district that’s more politically favorable.
She is charged with felony counts of attempting to influence a public servant, forgery and providing false information about a residence. She is also charged with misdemeanor counts of perjury and procuring false registration.
Bernett, who represents House District 12 and is running for her second term, turned herself in to the court Friday and was released on a personal recognizance bond, according to prosecutors. She is next due in court on Nov. 17.
The charges stem from a complaint filed in September with the Boulder County District Attorney’s Office by Theresa Watson, chair of the Boulder County Republicans, who asked prosecutors to look into whether Bernett broke the law by casting a ballot in the June 28 primary while registered at an address where the lawmaker doesn’t actually live.
Bernett changed the address of her voter registration from a 4,000-square-foot home in Longmont to a 700-square-foot apartment in Louisville on Nov. 3, 2021, so she could run for reelection in House District 12, which leans heavily in Democrats’ favor, according to a nonpartisan analysis of election results dating back to 2016.
The Longmont home was drawn into House District 19 during last year’s once-in-a-decade redistricting process. The new District 19 favors Republicans and is represented by GOP Rep. Dan Woog, of Erie.
State lawmakers must live in their districts for at least a year before Election Day under Colorado law. (Election Day 2022 is Tuesday, Nov. 8.)
Watson’s complaint cited Facebook posts from Bernett that appeared to show her still living at the Longmont home. It also included photographs of the Louisville apartment that appeared to show it vacant.
“As a result of the investigation, it is alleged that Ms. Bernett falsely represented her primary residence over a nine-month period,” the Boulder County District Attorney’s Office said in a news release Friday. “It is alleged that, although she rented an apartment in Louisville in order to qualify for elected office, she did not actually live there. And, in so doing, she filed false, sworn documents with the Secretary of State’s Office. It is, also, alleged that by misrepresenting her residence, she voted in a primary election in a district in which she does not actually live.”
Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty, a Democrat, said in a written statement that his office conducted “a thorough investigation” that included witness interviews, search warrants and the analysis of cellphone location data.
“I appreciate the efforts of the investigators assigned to this case, including using proper investigative tools such as the judicially authorized search warrants,” he said. “Based on the facts and the law, we will now move forward with a criminal prosecution. As in every case, our goal is to seek the right outcome – without fear or favor.”
Bernett has repeatedly refused to discuss details of her residency with The Colorado Sun.
The Sun first reached out to Bernett about her address change in August and then again in late September after Watson’s complaint was filed with Boulder County prosecutors.
The first time The Sun reached out to Bernett, she declined to comment. She didn’t return a voicemail The Sun left for her in September and didn’t respond to an attempt to contact her through the spokesman for the House Democratic caucus.
Bernett didn’t immediately respond Friday to a request for comment from The Sun on the criminal charges filed against her.
House Speaker Alec Garnett, a Denver Democrat who isn’t running for reelection this year because he has reached his eight-year term limit, said the allegations “are very serious and should not be taken lightly.”
“I trust the legal process to follow the facts,” he said in a written statement, “and I know Rep. Bernett will have an opportunity to be heard in that process.”
In response to a question from The Sun about whether Bernett should resign, Garnett said the legal process should play out.