Three’s Company
That time Colorado had three governors in one day

by Jess Brovsky-Eaker

Colorado voters rallied around the phrase “anybody but Peabody” as the state held its 1904 elections. Democrats firmly stood behind their candidate Alva Adams and asserted that Republican incumbent James Peabody had maintained too hard a stance against the state’s rampantly striking miners that heavily affected the local economy. Aside from the election becoming the state’s most corrupt in history, Colorado had three governors in one day and is still the only state to have earned the odd gubernatorial title.

After the 1904 election, initial tallies hinted that Adams won, but Republicans, who still held the majority in the legislature, alleged that fraud and corruption had taken place to unseat their candidate. While Adams temporarily took office, an investigation into the matter commenced, and over several months until state officials discovered that both Democrats and Republicans had violated election laws by engaging in ballot stuffing, gerrymandering and poll coercion.

Republican governors primarily occupied the seat while Democrats slipped in for a brief four-year period prior to Peabody’s election in 1902. State Democrats battled fiercely to unseat opposing candidates during the years leading up to the 1904 election, which may have contributed to the tactics deployed by both sides during that year’s gubernatorial race.

Adams officially took office March 17, 1905, and the legislature voted to remove him from office based on the election’s illegality. A compromise among lawmakers resulted in a temporary reinstallation of Peabody with the condition that he immediately resign. Peabody’s lieutenant governor, Jesse McDonald, then took up the position that afternoon, making Colorado the only state to have three different governors officially in the role on the same day.

Over the last century, cases of Colorado voter fraud primarily involve the casting of deceased persons ballots. In recent years, the state has increased precautions to se-cure the election process. According to various studies conducted over the last decade, Colorado is one of the safer states to cast a vote with a majority of votes being confirmed as legitimate prior to final tallies. As part of the state’s ongoing efforts to secure elections, the Colorado National Guard currently monitors Colorado’s Election Security Operations Center in Colorado Springs.

This article appeared in the March 16 issue of Law Week Colorado. To read other articles from that issue, order a copy online.