Westminster Vote Squabble? Try GOP Usual-Suspect Dogpile


​A story in this weekend's Denver Post from reporter John Aguilar discusses a voter registration ordinance up for debate in the Denver suburb of Westminster–a proposal that's attracting lots of conservative attention, being labeled a "political ploy" intended to help a Westminster city councilor in a bid for election. Let's unpack this silly-season story a little:

The proposed measure, which was given preliminary approval by Westminster City Council earlier this week, is prompting opposition from the apartment rental industry and from those who say that the duty of bolstering civic participation shouldn't fall on the private sector.

"It's the responsibility of the government, and not landlords, to facilitate voter registration," said Teo Nicolais, [Pols emphasis] a Denver resident who owns two rental properties in Westminster.

What we're talking about here is a proposal to require rental property landlords (and now municipal utilities to new homeowners, see below) to distribute a sheet with voting registration instructions to new residents. There's no requirement that landlords collect registrations or anything else, just to give out a piece of paper with instructions on registering to vote. Sounds pretty straightforward, right?

But Republican opponents, more often seen at state legislative hearings, are working overtime to kill this proposal ahead of final approval next month–with as much political agitating as a suburban city like Westminster ever sees. 

Importantly, the Denver Post's story fails to disclose something that readers should know about witness Teo Nicolais. Teo is the younger brother of GOP election attorney and now Colorado state senate candidate Mario Nicolais. Mario is an election law attorney at the Hackstaff Law Group, which our veteran readers will recall used to be known by the name Hackstaff Gessler. As such, the elder Nicolais can often be found weighing in at strategic moments in defense of Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler's election law agenda. Back in 2013, Mario Nicolais was the attorney of record for a group called Citizens for Free and Fair Elections, which sent out highly controversial mailers against an election reform bill in the legislature using a photo in which African-American voters had been digitally removed.

It's curious, to say the least, to note how the same young Republican operatives, including an informal group known as the "iGOP," keep reappearing in partisan squabbles over election law in Colorado. One "iGOP" up-and-comer, GOP House candidate and attorney Jon Keyser, stumbled early in his campaign when he alleged with high drama that he had received "two ballots" for last year's elections. In truth, he received a "second ballot" only for a tax question related to rural property he owns, and most likely knew that the whole time.

And that brings us to Compass Colorado, the conservative advocacy group organizing the campaign against the Westminster voter registration ordinance:

Right-leaning Compass Colorado this week accused [Councilor Faith] Winter, a Democrat, of "naked political ambition." The group said Winter is using the measure to turn out more Democrats to the polls and strengthen her run for the state House.

But Winter rejects the accusation of political expediency on her part. She said the date of the rule's enactment has been changed from July 1 to Jan. 1 so that it would have no effect on the November election.

The measure would also include a requirement that voter registration materials not just reach renters, but new homeowners as well, by including instructions in the first utility bill, she said.

The executive director of Compass Colorado is another "iGOP" cadre, Kelly Maher. And that part above about homeowners getting voter registration information along with renters is curiously important to Maher:

Not a bit of class warfare in that statement, is there? Also, even though the odds that Maher did not know exactly who Teo Nicolais is are pretty much nonexistent, here's what Maher Tweeted about Teo's testimony:

Just another concerned citizen! It's as if Maher, Nicolais and friends think the Westminster City Council is, well, stupid? It seems to us like the full facts of this usual-suspect campaign against a very moderate proposal to help new residents to register to vote, and the prejudices revealed by their assumptions and arguments against it, won't look so great to Westminster councilors who just voted in favor 5-2.

But nice try, we suppose.

66 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Ralphie says:

    Auto-correct?  Up for debt or up for debate?

  2. ajb says:

    Isn't this why they're called 'activists'? I wouldn't expect any less from the liberal side.The only difference is that we're right and they're wrong.

    I suppose that Westminster could balance the ordinance and require that every country club membership come with the same voter info sheet.

  3. JeffcoBlueJeffcoBlue says:

    Kelly Maher is responding via Twitter. She REALLY doesn't want to give up the renters are dems thing. Even if it's true, the story says they amended, so WTF Kelly? How is it a political ploy if homeowners get the info too?

    Silly hack wretch.

    Kelly Maher @okmaher  ·  4m

    .@coloradopols: partisan warfare ≠ class warfare See 11.1 http://www.centerforpolitics.org/downloads/pub_housing_2.pdf  it's a @FaithKWinter political ploy #try2keepup #copolitics

  4. mamajama55mamajama55 says:

    Just FYI: When one changes address online or in person with the US Postal Service, one automatically gets voter registration info. I just moved, and changed my voter reg, so I know this is true.

    Now probably, plenty of folks neglect to change their addresses  right away, and so the rental/ new homeowner voter registration provision will catch those procrastinators.

    Regardless, this Westminster ordinance should have no partisan effect. Movers  and new homeowners will divvy up into 1/3 each Dem, Repub, and Indy, just like all of the rest of Colorado.

    Voting is patriotic. Voters are good citizens. Healthy democracies have healthy voter turnout. Why would Mario Nicolais, who is running for elected office in Senate District 22, (Andy Kerr's Lakewood district)  want low voter turnout? And how did Pols miss that little factoid and obvious conflict of interest on Nicolais' part?


  5. ModeratusModeratus says:

    Why does Colorado Pols care so much about this Westiminster bill? The same questions should apply to the libs too.

    • Curmudgeon says:

      Oh, that's easy. Because we like the idea of people being registered to vote. More registered voters means more people get to participate in the process.  

      It's not surprising that a Republican would fail to see the value in that. It goes against their interests, after all. 

    • BlueCatBlueCat says:

      Why are you so unconcerned about the content of anything and only concerned about it's being R generated or D generated and whether the folks at colpols are being fair? Have you ever gathered actual facts about anything you have these strong opinions on and argued any of your strong opinions on the merits? Do you even know how? Where to start? 

      Just FYI, I have no particularly strong opinion on the matter one way or the other. Not sure it should be a landlord's or the utility company's responsibility but it seems a pretty cheap simple thing to do if that's what the people want so whether it succeeds or fails doesn't concern me all that much.

    • Ralphie says:

      That's not the right question.  Why are YOU writing it off.  Don't want people to vote?

  6. BoulderDem says:

    Faith Winter is a terrific, up-and-coming figure in the Dem Party. I know this because the whole monkey-wrenching gang of the GOP is apparently worried about her winning a normally Democratic State House seat (and IIRC this isn't the first time … they spent a bunch of money and effort to try and beat her for reelection to the City Council last cycle too). Go Faith!

    • bullshit!bullshit! says:

      Yeah, Faith is upwardly mobile and a decent person, the combination of which is unacceptable to the right.

    • Larry says:

      They spent a bunch of money trying to beat her? Faith is the fundraising queen and used her extensive network of donors to get her two cronies, Pinter and Garcia, elected to Westminster City Council last cycle. Obviously money well spent as they've empowered her to run this assinie proposal. 

  7. ElliotFladenElliotFladen says:

    It's a dual feature-coerced service and a vast right wing conspiracy allegation!  Sweet!

    • Miss Jane says:

      Not cogent.

      • Curmudgeon says:

        But it fulfilled its intended purpose; deflect from the issue with Right-Wing BS while avoiding addressing why a self-proclaimed Libertarian wouldn't want people to know how to register to vote.

    • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

      There is no forced labor involved. Landlords/ real estate agents simply have to hand over one more piece of information, along with all of the lead-based paint disclosures, equal opportunity affidavits, the formal lease agreement, the flood plain disclosure, etc, etc. The voter registration info/address will just be part of the packet – hardly burdensome.

      Unlike the other pieces of the lease/sale agreement, there is no requirement for the landlord/seller to collect a signature, nor to store voter records or submit them. It is strictly a "Here's how you vote in ______ " info piece.

      • ElliotFladenElliotFladen says:

        The other mandates, which I understand carry severe potential repurcussions if not followed, relate directly to the apartment's condition.  

        This mandate has no such relationship.  Westminster could just as easily force all apartment managers to run in the march of dimes, volunteer at a soup kitchen, teach underprivileged youth the "benefits" of an abstinence only until marriage lifestyle, or pass out military enrollment registrations.  Like this mandate, all could arguably be for the "greater good" yet none relate to the landlord-tenant relationship.

        • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

          It's not just the apartment / house, it's the community as a whole, about which tenants /buyers are given information.

          Zillow and all of the real estate / rental sites contain links to a neighborhood's schools, including school test scores and ratings. Some include demographic information and crime statistics. 

          It's understood that prospective tenants / buyers want to know everything about the neighborhood they're considering. Voting information is just one of those pieces.

          • ElliotFladenElliotFladen says:

            So do you support a city mandating apartments to provide military enlistment information?  Or information on how to find life-affirming (aka anti-abortion) services/counseling when there is a crisis pregnancy?

            • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

              I wouldn't be against providing that information, if it was included in an entire community directory of services. It's why companies send out new phone directories when people move.

              But it's a false equivalence -You're conflating providing information with advocacy. It's not the responsibility of landlords to advocate for tenant's life choices, but the Westminster proposal would make it the responsibility of landlords / property owners to provide complete information about the community in which their property is located, and that is appropriate, in my opinion.

        • It's information about how to participate in your local/county/state/federal government via the Constitutionally indicated practice of elections. How is this even up for debate given the other things that come with your lease agreement? I do think the bill could be refined by having the registration information be presented to new homeowners as part of closing documentation rather than in a utility bill, but fail to see how this is a Bad Thing.

    • bullshit!bullshit! says:

      You don't think it's disingenuous for Maher to ID Nicolais as some "young guy with two investment condos" when she knew exactly who he was?

      Of course you don't, because you are a hypocrite and you're probably friends with all of them.

      • ElliotFladenElliotFladen says:

        Is it disingenuous to pretend testimony from Common Cause is neutral on this?

      • ajb says:

        BS, isn't this how it's done by both sides? Find a person who is personally affected AND agrees with you AND is willing to get involved (i.e., scrutinized). 

        Personally, I think it's a mistake to choose somebody who is a political activist as your alleged victim. It makes the attack look totally political, and detracts from the merits of their argument. Once exposed, nobody is swayed.

        • ElliotFladenElliotFladen says:

          (that is perhaps a subconscious part of the reason why I refused to be an anti-Obamacare poster boy when my policy got cancelled). 

          • BlueCatBlueCat says:

            Subconscious? And am I imagining the posts whining about the inconvenience, complete with a dog ate my homework excuse about a lost driver's license?

            • ElliotFladenElliotFladen says:

              BC, if you had gone through the Connect Colorado process, you would know that a Medicaid denial is a requirement to apply for the tax credited plans.  To get a Medicaid denial, you need to have a driver's license number.  We did not have such a number because my wife had lost her wallet shortly beforehand (there is a Castle Rock PD Police Report on file).  

              Next time, maybe do some research or be cautious before you launch an attack.  You'll avoid looking like a jerk. 

              • BlueCatBlueCat says:

                Yes I went through it and your complaints about the inconvenience you suffered because your wife lost something, certainly not the fault of ACA or the site or anyone but your wife, is exactly what I'm referring to. Stuff happens. Including the occasional inconvenience. As I pointed out at the time it's also inconvenient to lose a license the day before a scheduled flight but that's not the fault of the policy that demands a license or other specific picture ID to board a plane. 

                You may not have presented yourself as the poster boy but you seemed to feel that your inconvenience due to your wife's screw up was somehow and indictment of the process. Very lame.

                PS I did it a week before the end and got my denial immediately when I completed my app on the phone because I got stuck on a question on the site. Just wanted clarification but the nice navigator offered to just walk me through the rest. Don't remember whether or not I was asked for a driver's license number. Do remember I got the denial after a short stint on hold and completed the process, start to finish, in under an hour.

                • DavieDavie says:

                  Yeah, but did you also have to fill out the forms while standing on your head, spinning two plates with your feet like they made Elliot do?

                • ElliotFladenElliotFladen says:

                  BC – my point was that I felt it was inappropriate that I was forced to go through the process in the first place and that that was due to the Dems' broken promise of being able to keep my plan. 

                  • BlueCatBlueCat says:

                    No need to remind us. That broken record has been playing non-stop. Yes it was stupid  for the administration to make a promise only the private sector could keep. But few had to suffer anything more than inconvenience for it as  the legion of discredited sob stories your side offered up proved better than anything the pro-ACA crowd could have said.  

                    Yes. It was an unforced error. Like giving your side 90% of what they wanted in the initial health coverage reform negotiations before the negotiations even started thereby killing any possibility of the public option Obama touted while campaigning for President back in 2008. 

                    Doesn't change the fact that we are better off in very significant ways with this half assed reform than we were before or would be under anything proposed by Rs. We can't be screwed for being sick, for reaching a cap,  for having preexisting conditions that prevents us from getting new insurance if our old insurance disappears with a lost job and we don't have to stick with a job and forego starting businesses of our own because we can't afford to lose the company insurance. 

                    Your side has offered nothing close to those improvements and they are well worth a little inconvenience even if they don't go nearly far enough. Some day, we'll have real universal single payer coverage like the rest of the civilized world. That will not only enable us to to return to their company in terms of quality of health care available to every person but should also help restore us to being the first place middle class and first place in upward mobility. It could even free up resources to help us reach number one or at least close to it in education. It would be nice to actually be number one, as opposed to just yelling it, in categories other than ability to blow stuff up again.

                  • ct says:

                    Oy Vey!  The counselor had to fil out a web form!!!  The injustice!  The stinging injustice of it all.


                  • Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

                    I went through the process. It was relatively easy and I kept my pre-ACA plan.


          • Curmudgeon says:

            Oh, bullshit, Elliot. You bravely refused to be an anti-Obamacare poster boy because you knew your sob story wouldn't stand up to scrutiny outside of your circle of FB friends. It sure as hell didn't stand up well here. 

            • Ralphie says:

              Let's get real, Curmudgeon.  Elliot doesn't "bravely" do anything.

              • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

                He has his redeeming moments.

                • BlueCatBlueCat says:

                  Pretty much only where immigration reform is concerned and he has personal reasons for making that the exception.

                  • ElliotFladenElliotFladen says:

                    And per BC's logic, I must also be a secret homosexual (and thus have fake personal reasons for being pro-immigration???), as otherwise, why would I support gay marriage?

                    Unless of course BC is secretly anti-homosexual and doesn't regard such views as "redeeming" 😉 

                    (and this shows why BC is a bit of an idiot – when you use language that extreme it is quite easy to make fun of you)

                    • BlueCatBlueCat says:

                      Logic has nothing to do with my gut feelings about how you form your opinions when those opinions deviate from the rightie herd. I wasn't claiming to have proof of anything so the question of logic doesn't apply. But then it's always been obvious that you have no understanding of the role of logic in our discussions.

                      If I now express the suspicion that someone close to you is gay and that's why you deviate from your herd on gay rights issues, that's not something that falls within the realm of logic either. Just as you are perfectly entitled to express the opinion that I'm an idiot without recourse to logic. 

                      You may feel that I'm an idiot and I may feel that you must be in deep denial to associate with and support those who are enemies of gay rights, immigration reform and who actively promote voter suppression. We're both entitled to our gut feelings.wink

                • Curmudgeon says:

                  I don't doubt that he does. This just isn't one of them.

              • ElliotFladenElliotFladen says:

                Your opinion is duly noted. 

  8. mamajama55mamajama55 says:

    Mario Nicolais is or was  the registered agent for 13 of the major Republican activist groups: Senate Majority Fund, Coloradans for Change, etc. Not counting his own political ambitions, he's definitely a guy with a GOP politicial agenda.

  9. BlueCatBlueCat says:

    Everybody raises very good points (accept Elliot's anti-choice points which have nothing to do with the issue at hand) but I've got to say, much as it pains me, I just don't see this as a landlord's responsibility. I'm trying but I just can't. I also don't think it would have much of an effect so it's hard to see this as anything other than much ado about not much. 

    People who don't care enough to register when they get or renew a license or change their registration info when they change the address on their driver's license, for instance, are not likely to care enough to take action because of info provided by the landlord. Strikes me as a feel good measure for those who support encouraging everyone to vote ( that would be Dems as Rs, seeing too much small "d" democracy as a threat to the" right" kind of voters, constantly try to restrict the vote any way they can) without much practical value.  

    • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

      The "motor voter"  registration option is mandatory, I think. When one changes driver's license info, it automatically goes right to the Secretary of State's office, and to the county of residence. It has increased voter registration, but not voter turnout.

      It's as it should be, as that's part of how we avoid fraudulent voting, and have for decades in Colorado. Trained people at the DMV get fingerprints, signatures, and photos for identification.

      Non-citizens get special "red" driver's licenses, and of course, they cannot vote.

      BC, you're right that this may be a big deal about not much – just another way to get info about voter registration, which will affect a small population, and have no partisan effect. But in that case, why do Fox news, Mario Nicolais, and the Colorado right wing punditry all have their collective panties in a twist about it?

      • BlueCatBlueCat says:

        Because it gives them an opportunity to do so. It's no secret that they they want as few of "those" people who live in apartments (you know, Romney's 47% though he was unaware that many of the 47% who pay no income taxes are either his .001% pals or people who pay a larger percent than his pals do if you include payroll taxes) to vote as possible. So here they have something to make their usual noise about. Sounds like more of a gift to them than an effective way of expanding turn out.

        As for motor voter, I'm sure you're right about changed addresses being submitted. It's been a long time since I had an address change. But getting or renewing a license doesn't automatically register you to vote. My understanding is that the service is offered. I think it's more likely that young people or those arriving from other states would take advantage of doing it on the spot when given the option at the DMV than not bother then and later go to the trouble of dealing with it in response to a packet from their landlord. 

        Bottom line, the rightie noise you note is the downside. Is there more of an upside? I don't think so.

        • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

          Yup, the motor-voter thing offers an opt-out  ("No way! I don't want the socialist nanny state to make me register to vote!").  But for the sane among us, it has made registering to vote more convenient.

          Just like this Westminster proposal. Licensed Landlords / sellers have to add a sheet of paper or a pdf file to their packets for prospective tenants/ buyers. Utility companies add voting registration instructions to the first bill.

          I think it would actually have an impact, albeit a small one.  I've personally registered hundreds of voters of all political affiliations, and some of them simply didn't know how to go about registering to vote.  No one had reached out to them.

          Fox News is quite willing to spread propaganda about whom to be mad at or blame for the country's woes….but I have NEVER seen them tell anyone how to register to vote.

          Same with all of the copycat rightie websites. Perhaps practicing rights of citizens in a democracy  is too…..well, democratic.

          • BlueCatBlueCat says:

            Well you don't want the unwashed masses running roughshod over the people who matter do you?  

            We'll just have to disagree on this one. I don't see it as the job of your landlord to encourage civic responsibility. State and local government should do a better job of promoting registration and making the info easily available. I've often participated as a volunteer through local party efforts to register voters and that's something all Dems who are concerned about all kinds of election issues, including voter ID laws, shortened early voting, etc., should look into doing.

            If the right is going to try to make it harder to vote the rest of us need to volunteer to help make sure people  get help registering, have the correct ID, know about changes in voting hours and locations and help with rides. My senior mother always volunteers to give rides to the polls to seniors who aren't still able to drive, for instance.  

            Boots on the ground can counter a lot of this. I also think Dems need to establish funds specifically to help those who are really on tight budgets pay the fees they need to obtain birth certificates etc. in places where tough voter ID laws are already in place. We've had some good court decisions recently but we don't know how it will all end. The Supremes' rightie majority seems to think there's no such thing as racism anymore, that unlimited buying of access and influence is fine and they could very well uphold the most draconian voter roadblocks.

          • Ralphie says:

            Motor Voter is also the cause of some of the miniscule amount of so-called "voter fraud" in this state, at least according do clerks and elections directors I have talked to.  Some LEGAL immigrant with papers but a poor understanding of American customs will go in there to get a driver's license, to which they are entitled, and the MV clerk asks them if they want to register to vote.  A few people think they are supposed to say "Yes" because they don't know any better.  There really has to be a better way to trap these few accidents at the MV office.

            • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

              Ralphie, you may be right about those few potential accidental fraud cases…But our future Secretary of State (Joe Neguse!) will now have access to the Homeland Security database (SAVE), and that should roust out those few accidents.

              When Gessler used the SAVE database, however, his 20,000 suspected noncitizen voters diminished to fourteen, and none of those had actually voted.

              Non-citizens accidentally registering to vote through motor-votor seems like an issue which could be resolved cheaply with better training of DMV clerks, or multilingual materials and/or interpreters.



              • ElliotFladenElliotFladen says:

                Back in 2009 I recall AILA claiming its liaison raised issues with DMV about jeopardizing immigrants' status through encouraging them to register to vote and he DMV basically told them to pound sand.  Of course this was five years ago so my memory may have gotten foggy

              • BlueCatBlueCat says:

                And even without those solutions the ineligible people who registered due to poor communication and misunderstanding did not, as you note, try to vote. Nobody with an iota of intelligence or who is not in deep denial or delusional (I'm looking at Elliot) could possibly believe the issue is really concern about fraudulent voting. Puh-lease.

                • ElliotFladenElliotFladen says:

                  BC – you are missing it.  Even registering to vote can, depending on whether the registration has affirmations of citizenship, jeopardize an immigrants' immigration status.  That is why AILA (American Immigration Lawyers Association) was concerned by my recollection.  If you want to talk to the past president of the national organization (David Leopold) about how confusing voter registration instructions can screw legal permanent residents in general, he is a good friend of mine and can be found on my facebook page.  You'd also do well to note that he advises Democrats (not republicans, but your side) at the national level. 

                  • BlueCatBlueCat says:

                    Don't disagree that anything that causes possible complications for innocent immigrants is a problem that should be addressed. My point is that those who claim that these mistakes represent a significant threat of voter fraud on the part of those immigrants are liars using that as one of their many phony excuses for the draconian measures they seek to suppress the vote as much as they possibly can.

                    When you support Republicans you're supporting voter suppression and delaying tactics to avoid real immigration reform. 

                    As far as difficulties for the innocent, of course mama's suggestions wold be a  good place to start to prevent them. My point was that those mistakes have not been shown to lead to fraudulent voting. Neither is there evidence in any state where strict ID requirements have been instituted that in person fraudulent voting is a problem at all. 

                    Your rightie friends are enemies of the democratic process as well as enemies of immigrant, specially brown ones. Period. 

  10. ElliotFladenElliotFladen says:

    BTW – Regarding Teo Nicolais, maybe you should do some checking into his background before slamming him:


    Teo Nicolais

    Real Estate Investor; Finance and Economics Instructor

    Denver, Colorado

    Real Estate


    1. Nicolais, LLC
    2. Harvard University


    1. Cunat, Inc.


    1. Harvard College

    2013-14 Chair-Elect, Independent Rental Owners Council, Apartment Association of Metro Denver

    See that – he is on the council for the apartment association of metro denver, an organization that this ordinance was clearly relevant to.  But hey – Teo shares the same last name as a GOP attorney, thus it MUST be a conspiracy!  Free tinfoil hats for all who agree! 😉

    • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

      So Teo Nicolais has two motivations for opposing the Westminster ordinance:

      1) He's a real estate investor and was on the board of the apartment association; therefore the heinous requirement to add a voting registration information piece to what is routinely given to prospective tenants is a horrible imposition which must be resisted, and

      2) his big brother Mario is one of the powers that be amongst GOP lawyers and activists, as well as a candidate for SD22.  When more people register, more people vote.  Historically, this has meant more Democratic victories.

      We really don't have to look further for the Nicolais brother's motivations for opposing the Westminster ordinanceL  Pure self-interest, which I tend to respect.

      However,  I value voter information and engagement more than possible slight inconvenience to landlords, or easy GOP victories. Our interests are opposed, and we will not agree.



      • bullshit!bullshit! says:

        Elliot chose not to answer my question above: did Common Cause identify themselves when they testified? Why then did Kelly Maher try to pass Nicolais off as "some apartment owner?" She knew exactly who he was.

        Elliot makes excuses for these people because they are his friends, too. That's why he spent so much time and credibility defending those disgusting 1303 mailers that Photoshopped out the black voters…

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