Debunking Nonsense About Colorado Election Law (Again)

Wayne Laugesen.

Wayne Laugesen, editor of the Colorado Springs Gazette.

Yesterday, Colorado Springs Gazette editor Wayne Laugesen published an editorial demanding a special session to "fix" the election modernization bill passed by the General Assembly this year, House Bill 1303. Republican opponents of this new law, which was written in large part by county clerks from both parties, have made a range of highly dubious claims about this bill, from warnings that it would facilitate "gypsy voting" by nonresidents to the bizarre assertion that ballots might arrive "from Chicago" and be legally cast in Colorado elections.

Jon Caldara of the right wing Independence Institute went so far as to cast a ballot in the recent Senate District 11 (Colorado Springs) primary, even though he has lived in Boulder for nearly 30 years. As we've explained based on sound legal opinions we've heard, Caldara's logic is fundamentally flawed, and he has exposed himself to criminal prosecution by falsely affirming his "residence" in Colorado Springs. It seems like part of the purpose of Laugesen's silly editorial is to run cover for Caldara's election fraud, but he doesn't even manage that as we'll explain.

Here are some of the major claims made by the Gazette yesterday about Colorado election law, with their debunking. We hope that at some point journalists will stop allowing this nonsense to be uncritically repeated by their outlets, to include their editorial boards:

The new law undoes traditional checks and balances that have kept elections fair. Gone are assurances that only lawful residents of a jurisdiction get to vote in an election. Before HB1303, only the tinfoil hat crowd worried much about election fraud. Today, with HB1303, it's a legitimate concern…

Now first of all, we're pretty sure Laugesen just accused Secretary of State Scott Gessler and a whole lot of other Republicans who do indeed "worry about election fraud" of being members of the "tinfoil hat crowd!" Setting that aside for a moment, Laugesen is wrong–House Bill 1303 does not eliminate "assurances that only lawful residents of a jurisdiction get to vote in an election." Voting fraud is today–and always has been–a felony. Same day registration doesn’t remove any checks and balances, and actually isn't all that new. As the Secretary of State's office itself explained, the law allows voters to cast a ballot after they have already moved to the district and their address is verified.

We know the law can be abused, which is obvious to anyone who reads it. Any question about the biggest flaw in HB1303 was eliminated when Jon Caldara, a Boulder resident and president of Colorado's Independence Institute, cast a blank ballot in the District 11 recall to make a point.

You might recall during the debate over gun safety legislation in the General Assembly this year, a key contention by opponents was that "criminals don't care about laws." This argument always dumbfounded us, because it's a completely ridiculous tautology–of course criminals "don't care about laws," that's why they're criminals. But here we have one of the same people who made this ridiculous argument, that criminals don't follow laws, calling for–wait for it–stricter election laws! Because–wait for it–it's possible to break the law! We agree Caldara is a great example of the problem of people breaking laws.


That was a high-profile stunt, and authorities could do nothing to stop it because of HB1303.

If someone swears under penalty of perjury that something is true, generally that sworn statement is accepted by whoever is asking for it. If it is determined that a person lied under penalty of perjury, they then can be prosecuted. That didn't change with House Bill 1303. Caldara committed a felony by pretending to move to Colorado Springs and casting a ballot in the recall election. As we've explored in detail, it was obviously never Caldara's "intention" to move to Colorado Springs. So he committed a felony. The threat of felony prosecution is now, and has always been, the principal deterrent to election fraud. 

Traditionally, one had to have roots in a community before voting in it. Not now. The wording below clearly shows that one can show up in a jurisdiction on the day of an election and vote with nothing more than an "intention" of making the place a permanent home…

This gives almost any Coloradan – especially those among us who are willing to lie – an easy opportunity to vote in local elections.

We're kind of amazed to see such unthinking nonsense coming from the editor of a major newspaper. Folks, we hate to break this to you if you didn't already know it, but people who are "willing to lie" can vote wherever they want. They are committing a felony if they do, just like they were before House Bill 1303. If this seems obvious to you, it's probably because you are smarter than a proverbial fifth grader.

As for "roots in the community?" Before House Bill 1303, a voter had to live in the district they voted in for a whopping 29 days. Under House Bill 1303, it's 22 days resident in-state, a person must have already moved to the district, and their intention must be to remain in the district. Now, it's possible that Laugesen is referring to some other kind of long-ago "tradition," back in the days of poll taxes or literacy tests? But if he's discussing the laws Colorado has used for elections since well before House Bill 1303, the residency requirement was always 29 days. We have no idea what kind of "roots in the community" one can establish in 29 days, but we'd say probably not very damned much.

Want to pass or kill a local school tax? Bring in voters willing to state an "intention" to move. Want to undo a municipal gun law? Ask impassioned gun-rights activists to show up and state their intentions to move.

In a hurry? Run a stop light. Want more money? Rob a bank.

Please remember that there are consequences if you do.

Even if county officials can prosecute, they have no good means of detecting such activity.

Again, this is just not true. Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert "Bo" Ortiz was able to show inquiring reporters that there had only been 39 same-day registrants in the SD-3 primary out of some 11,000 votes that had been cast by that time. According to Ortiz, it's no problem to track these registrations, and anyone he suspects of voter fraud will be turned over to the local distract attorney. Laugesen says that such prosecutions can't "undo the damage" of voter fraud, but how could they ever? How can you un-commit any crime?

This concludes today's lesson in remedial critical thinking, which unfortunately newspaper editors are not required to pass. We'll be happy to recount this as many times as necessary, but we hope–probably in vain–that the Wayne Laugesens of the world get their facts straight first.

19 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Gray in Mountains says:

    And yet, when R legislators and SOSs across the country remove such items as utility bills as proof of residence they are removing items that really do demonstrate residency. As I recall, from days when I moved frequently, one would not even have a utility bill unless they had lived a place more than 30 days

  2. bullshit!bullshit! says:

    This is a very important post. I'll be interested in seeing what Laugesen has to say for himself. Consider his stupid editorial demolished.

  3. EccentricRepublicanEccentricRepublican says:

    Silly liberals, if you think votes and guns are the same, clearly you've never been shot.

    I actually don't know what that means either, but FREEDOM RULES!

  4. OrangeFreeOrangeFree says:

    We know the law can be abused, which is obvious to anyone who reads it. Any question about the biggest flaw in HB1303 was eliminated when Jon Caldara, a Boulder resident and president of Colorado's Independence Institute, cast a blank ballot in the District 11 recall to make a point.

    Our very own SOS confimring that Caldara abused the system. Why not go after him? Oh, it's probably because his last name is Latino enough to warrent the extra scrutiny. Here's is an actual publisized case of voter fraud, and Gessler won't lift a finger because the guy's a white Republican. 

    Want to pass or kill a local school tax? Bring in voters willing to state an "intention" to move. Want to undo a municipal gun law? Ask impassioned gun-rights activists to show up and state their intentions to move.

    Except the law says nothing about intentions, and says everything about you affirming that you will be living at the new address come election day. And this is somthing that must be verified by the County Clerk. No "I planned to live there, but then changed by mind," no "the deal fell through on the house/apartment so I didn't move" nonsense. You affirm, under oath, that you will, in fact, be living at the new address. Otherwise, you have committed fraud. And by the looks of Caldara's stunt, fraud that is easy to figure out and then prosecute. 

    Even if county officials can prosecute, they have no good means of detecting such activity.

    Horseshit. It's not hard to spot an unusual flood of people "intending" to move (as they put it) in to the district. They would willingly let fraud happen score political points. 

    • Old Time Dem says:

      That is not correct.  1-1-102(f) states that a person's residence for voting purposes changes if he or she has the intention of making a new county or precinct a permanent residence.  That sounds fuzzy, but its not.  Intention, for this purpose, is not the subjective intention that Caldara thinks he could claim. Instead, intention has to be shown by all the facts and circumstances.  Caldara's claim that he intended to move to Colorado Springs because he rented a room for a week is contradicted by the facts that his family, social, and business connections remained in Boulder.



  5. DavieDavie says:

    So the bottomline on Laugesen's argument is that he's deathly afraid that there are more Democrats "willing to lie" about their eligibility to vote than there are Republicans.

    Wayne, let me assure you, given all the evidence, Republicans have got you covered in that department. Just ask your buddy Caldara — he's an expert at lying.

    • The realistThe realist says:

      Yup – Republicans win this one. Reminds me of when then-Rep Baumgardner had his cowboy/legislator business cards printed to say he lived in Cowdrey (in Jackson County) when he thought he needed to live there for re-election purposes. He never actually moved out of Grand County – it was a lie. As Sen Jean White later said about their miserable Primary Race in 2012: "His lies beat my truths."


  6. BlueCatBlueCat says:

    Great post. The hypocrisy displayed by these hate and fear mongers who play one tune that goes…. there are never enough hoops for (Dem leaning) citizens who want to vote and another when it comes to guns that goes….. even one modest hoop is a hoop too many, is astounding. 

    Now what's needed is Dem pols with the guts to go on offense in countering their message. And, I'm sorry Giron supporters… whining about the lack of mail ins when you lost by double digits isn't the way to do it. Figuring out how to deliver your message effectively and having the guts to to attack head on so you don't lose by double digits is what's called for. 

  7. itlduso says:

    22% of registered voters bothered to vote in Senator Morse's recall election.  That means only 11.1% of registered voters effected the recall of the state senator.  In other words, calling our system of government a "democracy" is a farce.  Certainly, making voting easier is part of the solution.  But, a more involved electorate that cares enough to vote would be better.  I'm just tired of knocking on doors and sidestepping ramaging dogs just to plead with someone to vote.  Maybe it's time for the system used by many countries that fines those who do not vote.


  8. Republican 36 says:

    It is hard to believe Mr. Laugesen is an editor at a major Colorado newspaper. His assertions that same day registration has or will result in vote fraud are simply false based on overwhelming historical evidence. Eight states have significant experience with same day registration. These are the eight and the year they enacted same day registration:

    Idaho (1994)


    Maine (1973)

    Minnesota (1974)

    Montana (2005)

    New Hampshire (1996)

    Wisconsin (1975)

    Wyoming (1994)

    There are four other jurisdictions (including the District of Columbia) that have enacted similiar legislation since 2010, including Colorado (2013), California (2012), Connecticut (2012), and the District of Columbia (2010).  Maryland has enacted a same day registration statute but it doesn't go into effect until the 2016 election cycle. I'm not counting Maryland or the four states which have enacted such legislation since 2010, but even in those with little expereince thus far, none are reporting vote fraud because of same day registration. None. The other eight that in all but two, have decades of expereince with same day registration have never, repeat never, had any significant vote fraud caused by same day registration. Mr. Laugesen's assertions are baseless. But holding true to the Republican standard, facts to Mr. Laugesen are irrelevant trivia that are to be dismissed when they don't support ironclad ideology. He should be ashamed of himself.

  9. JeffcoBlueJeffcoBlue says:

    Fascinating. Laugesen was all over Pols on Saturday trying to defend Caldara. Now Pols rips the editorial Laugesen promised Saturday on this blog to shreds, and he's nowhere to be found. Cowardice from the former editor of Soldier of Fortune? Whodathunkit?

    • gaf says:

      Laugesen promised his Sunday editorial would explain how to fix the "problem" with the new law. His fix? Change it. Doesn't say how, no specific recommendation, just change it. He can't suggest specifics without exposing the nonsense behind his attacks and/or exposing the real intent–supressing the vote among those he doesn't want to vote.

  10. n3bn3b says:

    It's a bad law. We need voter ID and no mail ballots, and the 30 day residency rule must be restored. Call the special session!

    • ajb says:

      8 states, half red,half blue, have same-day registration.

    • BlueCatBlueCat says:

      No mail ballots? That'll piss off a whole lot of suburban Republicans. All my Republican neighbors, especially the elderly, love their mail in ballots. Pretty sure that ship has sailed.  Most people are never going to want to go back to the days when everyone, no matter what you're work schedule, classes, state of health, age, the weather, had to get to the polls during one set of hours on one day.  

      Mail in is here to stay. Nice as it was to be able to intimidate low payed Dem leaning workers from taking time off from work to vote, Rs have grown  too accustomed to the convenience of all those early and mail in options.

  11. DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

    Stop arguing, lets prove this one way or the other. The local DA needs to prosecute Caldera and then we'll find out if that is a way to fraudulently vote.

  12. dwyer says:

    I will bet that Caldera is not going to be prosecuted.  

    lets prove this one way or the other. The local DA needs to prosecute Caldera – See more at:


    But, see DT, "we" don't have the power to prove this one way or the other.  We can't force the DA to prosecute Caldera.  You sound like Jason…..scolding elected officials and journalists by telling them what they "should" do or "need to do."

    Something about "against the wind."


  13. Hawkeye-X says:

    If I was the DA. I'd prosecute Caldera for first degree murder and get 12 peers of his jury to buy it.


    And watch Caldera try to get out of the death row.


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