Amber McReynolds Moves Toward SoS Bid

Word of a possible new Democratic entry into the 2018 Colorado Secretary of State’s race could spark new interest in a critically important but underappreciated statewide downballot office, one that Democrats have tried and failed to win for a number of years. Amber McReynolds, the current Director of Election for the Denver County Clerk and Recorder’s office, is reportedly well down the path of discussions to determine if she should challenge incumbent Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

McReynolds, who is currently unaffiliated but would likely register as a Democrat for this race, would represent a departure from previous candidates with mostly legislative or other political experience; an elections professional from the state’s foremost county clerk’s office–more in the mold of successful Republican candidates for Secretary of State like Donetta Davidson and…well, yes, incumbent Secretary of State Wayne Williams. There’s an argument that a challenger from a position of competency like another well-known elections official would represent a better challenger to Williams, who has prided himself on running as smooth and uncontroversial a ship as possible.

That was of course made much more difficult by Williams’ very poor handling of the recent request from the Trump administration’s so-called Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, voicing support for an effort that even most Republican secretaries of state think is a waste of time and resources. Williams’ initially confusing statements about what data was bring provided resulted in thousands of Colorado voters un-registering in an act of misguided protest. Since then Williams has tried to walk back that gaffe while reaffirming the integrity of our state’s elections, but for lay political news consumers in Colorado the damage is arguably done.

So yes, we’d say there is an opening here–to win an office that has bedeviled Democrats for longer than most of us have been doing politics in Colorado. And if she does get in, McReynolds could be just the candidate Democrats need to make the most of it.

Half of Republicans Would Support Postponing 2020 Election?

There are very real consequences of Donald Trump’s claims of voter fraud in the 2016 election. As the Washington Post reports, a good number of Republicans actually believe the President on this nonsense:

Critics of President Trump have repeatedly warned of his potential to undermine American democracy. Among the concerns are his repeated assertions that he would have won the popular vote had 3 to 5 million “illegals” not voted in the 2016 election, a claim echoed by the head of a White House advisory committee on voter fraud.

Claims of large-scale voter fraud are not true, but that has not stopped a substantial number of Republicans from believing them. But how far would Republicans be willing to follow the president to stop what they perceive as rampant fraud? Our recent survey suggests that the answer is quite far: About half of Republicans say they would support postponing the 2020 presidential election until the country can fix this problem… [Pols emphasis]

…Not surprisingly, beliefs about the 2016 election and voter fraud were correlated with support for postponement. People who believed that Trump won the popular vote, that there were millions of illegal votes in 2016, or that voter fraud is not rare were more likely to support postponing the election. This support was also more prevalent among Republicans who were younger, were less educated, had less factual knowledge of politics and strongly identified with the party.

It apparently doesn’t matter much to these people that election officials all across the country have said for a long time that there is no evidence of widespread election fraud. Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams has been adamant in this position, and there is no actual data to support claims of voter fraud from Trump or his bogus “Voter Fraud Commission.”

As Newsweek reported last week, Trump’s “Voter Fraud Commission” doesn’t even really know why it exists:

The commission investigating President Donald Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2016 election doesn’t know what it hopes to achieve, said one of its members Monday.

Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, who serves on President Trump’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, said that he will reject the federal government’s second round of calls to states to submit voter registration data to the group.

Dunlap told the Portland Press Herald Monday that he’s concerned the commission hasn’t made its aims clear and that he’s worried about voters’ privacy.

Both state and national reports have failed to come up with any evidence of widespread voter fraud (including a 2014 report by the Presidential Commission on Election Administration). On the very rare occasion that fraud is discovered here in Colorado, it is almost always perpetrated by Republicans.

Trump has not actually suggested that the 2020 election should/could be postponed, but it is frightening to know that there are a sizable number of Republicans who wouldn’t blink if he did.

Colorado Voter Protest Gets Spun Into Crazytown

Secretary of State Wayne Williams (R).

A controversy erupted last month over a request from the Trump administration’s so-called Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity for voter records from Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams. Along with most other states, Williams refused to turn over data considered nonpublic, include the last four digits of voters’ social security numbers and their complete birth dates. Unlike most states, Williams made a public statement in response to the commission’s request that did not criticize the effort’s highly dubious basis for existence–a difference that resulted in Colorado being inaccurately listed in media reports as one of the few states “cooperating” with the commission.

In response to widespread news reports about Williams providing data to the commission, some Colorado voters overreacted based on an incorrect understanding of what was happening. In truth all of the data being sent is already publicly available, and widely used by political organizations and candidates in their own campaigns. Despite this, several thousand Colorado voters took the drastic step of withdrawing their voter registrations entirely, with a smaller number opting to make their voter registrations confidential under a state law that allows this in cases where voters feel the information could pose a physical threat. It should be noted that un-registering does not remove a voter’s history from the permanent record, so this didn’t really accomplish anything other than to lodge a protest.

But folks, don’t tell that to the conservative mediasphere! They’re off and running with the latest conspiracy, typified by Townhall.com’s Wayne Allyn Root:

Thirty-four hundred Colorado citizens just quickly and quietly dropped off the voting rolls. I know the reason why. Because President Trump is investigating voter fraud in Colorado (and every other state too).

Those 3,400 ex-voters are illegal aliens. Until now they got away with voter fraud. But now we have a new sheriff in town. And they’re starting to get the message: If you’re illegal and you’re voting…

IT’S ADIOS AMIGO!

Where do you even start with this? Probably with the fact that un-registering wouldn’t prevent anyone who may have actually committed vote fraud from getting caught. These voters who un-registered weren’t trying to hide anything, because that’s not how the system works. They are angry about their information being part of a witch hunt, meant to perpetuate President Trump’s baseless allegations of voter fraud for the sole purpose of easing Trump’s upset over losing the popular vote by three million people.

And yes, as we said before, it wasn’t the right response–not least because of how vote-fraud conspiracy theorists interpreted it (see above). Their interpretation is nonsense, of course, but you can see how the actions of Colorado voters made it possible.

The second point that needs to be underscored is something that Secretary of State Wayne Williams himself finally did with his response to the commission last week–answering a question about the number of confirmed instances of voter fraud in Colorado going back almost two decades, Williams listed fewer than 20 cases in total out of millions of votes cast. Of Colorado’s election system in general, Williams told the commission:

“Elections are working well in Colorado,” Williams wrote to the commission. “By every relevant metric, our state ranks as a leader in election administration. Thanks to sound policy and the hard work of our 64 county clerks and recorders, Colorado is often ranked first and always ranked in the top five in the nation in both voter turnout and percentage of eligible Coloradans who are registered to vote.”

The best antidote to these allegations of fraud is the simple fact that the system works here. We can’t speak for every election system in every state, but in Colorado, despite continuous allegations made by Republican politicians and pundits, there is simply nothing to substantiate any of these claims. Our Republican Secretary of State, although he fumbled the first attempt to clear the air on this crucial point, will tell you so.

And Williams has more fellow Republicans he needs to tell–like the readers of Townhall.com.

Beauprez-Backed Organization Still Fighting Court Ruling

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

It’s been three months since a Denver judge ordered Colorado Pioneer Action (CPA), a political committee run by former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez (R-CO), to pay a $17,735 fine for violating campaign finance laws and to register formally as political committee, requiring CPA to disclose its donors.

But Beauprez hasn’t produced the cash or the names of the donors. What’s up?

After Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Robert Spencer issued his ruling that CPA failed to register and file reports as a political committee during the last election, CPA appealed, and Matt Arnold of Campaign Integrity Watchdog (CIW), which brought the case against CPA, guesses the case won’t be heard for a few months, at the earliest.

After the appeal was filed, Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams’ office issued an “enforcement order and stay of action.”

“We have stayed the action in CPA pending appeal,” said Suzanne Staiert, Colorado Deputy Secretary of State (SOS), who signed the order, via email. “This is required under our rule. If CPA is unsuccessful, then our practice is to invoice for payment. We have no reason to believe that CPA would not pay if they lost the appeal.”

Arnold thinks Williams office should have invoiced CPA for the fine immediately after the ALJ decision, even though the case was appealed, telling me on Wednesday, “Upon imposition of the penalty, the Secretary of State should have immediately invoiced CPA for the fine, and it’s not discretionary.”

Luis Toro, Director of Colorado Ethics Watch, also reads the applicable SOS rule as only barring “enforcement actions (i.e., lawsuits to enforce the order in district court) and not referral to collections.”

“My opinion is that the Secretary has discretion to file or not file an enforcement action in district court, but that he does not have discretion to refrain from issuing a fine invoice and referring it to collections if unpaid – unless a stay is issued by the ALJ or the Court of Appeals,” Toro told me via email.

“The bottom line is that yes, unless the ALJ or the Court of Appeals issues a stay, the Secretary should send out an invoice for the unpaid fine and refer it to collections if not paid. But CIW is not prevented from filing its own enforcement lawsuit, and in fact that’s what the law contemplates when the Secretary fails to act to enforce an ALJ decision.”

Arnold is concerned that even if Beauprez loses his appeal, filed by high-powered Holland Hart, Williams won’t instruct the state collections office to get the funds from CPA.

Asked if her office has instituted a policy not to collect fines, Staiert wrote, “We do not have a policy ‘not to seek the collection of such fines’, rather we look at the assets of the committee to determine if collection is viable only after a failure to pay.”

Toro pointed out that the letter from Williams’ office “doesn’t say that Matt Arnold can’t file his own enforcement action, in fact, I read it as saying that he can do so.”

The enforcement mechanism, which could compel CPA to pay its fine, register as a political committee, and disclose its donors, is a lawsuit in district court.

Inauspicious Start for Colorado SOS Candidate

Jena Griswold, Democratic candidate for Secretary of State

Democrats have at least four candidates vying for Attorney General, and another four hoping to be the Party’s nominee for Congress in CD-6. Republicans have four or five candidates for State Treasurer now that Polly Lawrence has made her intentions known. Everybody and their mother is running for Governor.

Until today, the one high-profile race in 2018 that had yet to attract more than one candidate was for Secretary of State, where incumbent Republican Wayne Williams had been sailing along all by himself. Democrats now have a challenger for Williams, as the Denver Post reports:

A Democratic candidate for the state’s top elections job is calling Donald Trump’s voter fraud panel “a sham commission” and blasting Secretary of State Wayne Williams for his “rash decision” to comply.

“We need to call the commission what it is and be very careful about how we are dealing with the commission,” said Jena Griswold, a former voting rights attorney for the Obama campaign and member of Gov. John Hickenlooper’s administration.

Griswold, a 32-year-old from Louisville, filed paperwork Wednesday to challenge the Republican incumbent in the 2018 election.

And who, you may ask, is Jena Griswold? Let’s go back to the Post story for the answer:

Griswold’s passion for elections law blossomed when she joined the 2012 Obama campaign’s team of voter protection attorneys. She later served as Hickenlooper’s Washington, D.C., liaison, working to help get federal emergency recovery dollars after the devastating 2013 floods.

Now she works as outside counsel to a company she wouldn’t name [Pols emphasis] and works on public policy issues as part of her firm, Griswold Strategies.

Gah!

There are a lot of tough questions in politics. “Who do you work for?” is not one of them.

Trump Vote Fraud Witch Hunt Stopped Cold, For Now

Secretary of State Wayne Williams (R).

CBS4’s Stan Bush reporting–the somewhat overblown yet vexing controversy over the Trump administration’s so-called Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity’s request for voter data from the states, for the purpose of investigating Trump’s unfounded claims of “millions” of fraudulent votes cast in the 2016 elections, was but on the back burner yesterday after a temporary restraining order halted the commission’s work:

A series of lawsuits are forcing the Trump White House to slam the breaks on a controversial request for voter data across the country.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center has requested a temporary restraining order against the Trump administration. In response, the White House sent emails to election officials across the country asking for no data to be sent, including data that is publicly available.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams says his office will not send data until the administration formally requests it again. [Pols emphasis]

“It is a win that people have been pushing back on this because they understand what this is about,” says ACLU of Colorado Executive Director Nathan Woodliff-Stanley.

It’s anybody’s guess whether these pending lawsuits will put a permanent end to this widely derided commission, but this pause should give folks a chance to catch their breath after a wild week of press that resulted in hundreds of Colorado voters withdrawing their voter registrations in a wrongheaded attempt to deny Trump’s commission their information. Now first of all, that doesn’t work–the fact that you were a registered voter, your publicly available data and voter history don’t go away just because you un-register. And secondly, more importantly, un-registering to vote is a monumentally stupid and counterproductive thing to do on general principles.

Last week’s spate of un-registrations seems to have been a misinformed response to news reports about voters making their voter data confidential–or maybe they just decided not to bother with that more complicated process. Whatever the cause, the numbers involved raised considerable alarm with voting rights and GOTV groups. As we have said from the beginning, all the data in question here is already public, and the criticism of Williams is that he didn’t refute Trump’s unfounded claims of massive election fraud this time like he did last fall before Trump won the election. Nothing about this request or Williams’ response ever really justified even making one’s voter data confidential, let alone withdrawing one’s voter registration entirely.

Because the voters affected by this situation are generally liberal Democrats opposed to Trump, these un-registrations could be considered a partisan victory for the GOP before the commission even gets underway–although for Williams’ reputation as a fair public official that would be an unfortunate development. We would hope that Williams takes advantage of the pause afforded by this restraining order and does something to persuade voters who withdrew to re-register.

They should at least get a postcard that the witch hunt has been postponed indefinitely.

Pique With Williams Over Voter Data Gets Way Out of Hand

Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

As Denver7’s Blair Miller reports, anger at Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams over his praise for a dubious “voter fraud” commission President Donald Trump has established to investigate his equally dubious claims of “millions” of fraudulent votes cast in last year’s elections has teamed up with anger’s friend misinformation–to produce an outcome in a small but growing number of cases that we don’t think anyone wants.

Except for those who want liberal registered voters to voluntarily un-register to vote.

At least two Colorado county clerks say they’ve seen a large increase in the number of people who have withdrawn their state voter registration since Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams said he would send the Trump administration’s election integrity commission some voter-roll information in accordance with state law.

Alton Dillard, a spokesperson for the Denver Elections Division, said 180 people have withdrawn their registration in the county since July 3. When compared to the eight people who withdrew their registration from June 26-29, it marks a 2,150 percent increase, according to Dillard.

Haley McKean, a spokeswoman with the Arapahoe County Clerk and Recorders Office said at least 160 people had withdrawn their registrations since July 1. She added that “dozens” of others had made their voter registration confidential.

The Adams County Clerk’s Office said “about 30 to 40” people were withdrawing their registrations each day over the past week. The Douglas County Clerk’s Office says it hasn’t had anyone withdraw their registration, however.

Let’s start with the most important fact: as we have said over and over since this controversy arose last week, the data that Williams is turning over to Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s commission is already publicly available to anyone who requests it. It has been available for many years in electronic form, updated regularly with data from the county clerks. This is data that is already in the hands of, in addition to state government, innumerable political and commercial organizations who have already digested it, augmented it, and rendered from it a detailed profile of your life, opinions, and economic decisions. By any reasonable analysis, there is absolutely nothing to be afraid of with regard to data that is not just public but highly ubiquitous.

The problem, as we have attempted to be clear about from the beginning, is the lack of any criticism from Williams of the commission’s request or its rational basis for existence. This is important because Williams’ office commendably stood up to Trump’s campaign-trail warnings of impending fraud in last year’s elections, explaining over and over that there was absolutely no evidence in Colorado’s electoral history to justify Trump’s wild claims. Understand that this wasn’t just some altruistic move on Williams’ part; there was significant concern among Republican campaign operatives at this time that Trump’s vote fraud clamoring could suppress GOP turnout in the election. But it was still the right thing to do–and Williams’ failure to stand up to Kobach’s commission now that Trump is President, as so many other Secretaries of State in both parties did, invites criticism that Williams’ principles didn’t survive the election.

With all of this in mind, this week we cited a Colorado Independent story that asked county clerks about a provision in state law that allows voters to make their file data confidential. Although this provision is specifically intended to help crime victims, police officers, and others who have a reasonable fear of physical violence or harassment to make their address somewhat more difficult to find in public records, the clerks told the Independent that they don’t verify the circumstances that applicants attest to.

Literally within minutes of publishing that blog post, we began hearing from friends who work on campaigns, nonprofit advocacy groups, and others who use the voter file as a central component of their outreach planning. And they were, we’ll let your imagination paint the picture, very unhappy that presumably left-of-center voters were being encouraged to take themselves out of the loop in terms of voter outreach. We updated the story later in the day to reflect their well-founded concern. But it didn’t matter, that evening most TV news stations ran stories about how to make your voter data confidential because Williams is giving it to Trump, and the proverbial game of telephone took it from there.

Bottom line: although Williams comes in for plenty of criticism for validating a commission denounced from both sides of the aisle as a “witch hunt,” making your voter data confidential without a good reason does more harm than good any way you look at it–in addition to being potentially perjurious. And obviously, obviously, voluntarily un-registering to vote, simply because Williams is giving over information everybody already has, is asinine in the extreme. Please tell everyone you know to not do either one, even if they look at you like you’re stupid. You never know when they’ll get the chain email or see the Facebook fake news.

Self-suppressing your vote is not now and will never be the answer to vote suppression. If we were at any point unclear about this fundamental principle, we apologize.

Good news! July 1-7, 2017

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

This diary is about small victories, local heroes, sweet stories, random kindnesses, unexpected grace, cold justice served up on a hot plate. As always, your interpretation of what is “good news” is probably different than mine, and categories often overlap.

Attorneys General across the country (including Colorado’s Coffman)  are claiming that they will check Big Pharma’s pushing of opiods, “clear the swamp”, ensure fair voting, and protect transgender people. AGs be aware – people will check to see that you follow through on your promises.

Voting rights roundup

flag with I voted

Image by debaird on flikr

Fourth of July, Fireworks, and the Franchise – what could be more patriotic? Voting seems to be on everyone’s minds right now.

Alabama seeks to inform felons of restored voting rights in jail

Kentucky also ordered the voting rights of 284 felons to be restored.

Kris Kobach, Vice-Chair of Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Voter Integrity,  requested that all 50 states send him their voter information by July 14 so that the Commission can create a national voter registry to prevent what he claims is rampant voter fraud.

Unfortunately, rather than creating a process to make it easier for voters to register and vote, the Commission’s goal appears to be to selectively disenfranchise voters. The good news is that 45 states now have refused to provide part or all of the information requested. President Trump is not pleased, and has let us know this in his usual way.

Alison Lundergan Grimes, KY Secretary of State said that there is  “not enough bourbon in Kentucky” to make  Trump’s request seem sensible.

Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann suggested that, “They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi is a great state to launch from…”

Floridians are also petitioning to restore voting rights to felons.

Colorado’s Secretary of State Wayne Williams is trying to have it both ways  –  comply with Trump’s request, while still protecting the privacy of Colorado voters by supplying only publicly available information. Many voters are choosing to keep their data confidential by filing a form and paying $5 at the Secretary of State’s Office.

Voters seldom commit fraud in Colorado – but when they do, they are usually Republicans.

(more…)

Williams Fence-Straddles Trump “Voter Fraud” Witch Hunt

Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

A controversy that sprang up heading into the long holiday weekend, which we expect is driving a lot of political discussions at Independence Day celebrations among Colorado’s politically literate class, is both more and less of a deal than the respective sides are making it out to be. Starting with CNN’s report on requests from President Donald Trump’s so-called Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, headed by notorious vote-fraud conspiracy theorist and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, for publicly-available voter data from the states–a request meeting heavy resistance from Secretaries of State on both sides of the aisle:

The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity’s vice chairman, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, sent a letter to each state Wednesday asking a series of questions soliciting feedback about election administration, voter fraud and the integrity of the process. CNN obtained a copy of the letter sent to Maine’s secretary of state.

Kobach also requested that each state provide “publicly available voter roll data” as allowed under each state’s laws, which could include full names of registered voters, dates of birth, party registration, last four digits of Social Security numbers and voting history…

Some state officials began coming out Thursday in opposition to the request — concerned that it was evidence of an agenda by the Trump White House and dismissing it as “politically motivated and silly posturing,” per Virginia’s governor.

“I have no intention of honoring this request,” Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, said in a statement. “Virginia conducts fair, honest, and democratic elections, and there is no evidence of significant voter fraud in Virginia. This entire commission is based on the specious and false notion that there was widespread voter fraud last November. At best this commission was set up as a pretext to validate Donald Trump’s alternative election facts, and at worst is a tool to commit large-scale voter suppression.”

Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, a Republican, said of Kobach’s letter: “My reply would be: They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico, and Mississippi is a great state to launch from. Mississippi residents should celebrate Independence Day and our state’s right to protect the privacy of our citizens by conducting our own electoral processes.”

The resistance being encountered to these requests from secretaries of state of both sides of the aisle is not so much because it’s confidential information, though some items like partial Social Security numbers and dates of birth may be considered private in some states. The problem is that there is no actual evidence of any widespread or organized voter fraud in American elections, and the continuing promulgation of conspiracy theories insisting such fraud does take place are a major theme of what became known in the 2016 election cycle as “fake news.”

Here in Colorado we have a great deal of experience with unfounded allegations of “thousands of illegal voters” being freely bandied about by Republican politicians, archetypified by former Secretary of State Scott Gessler who claimed with what turned out to be no factual basis that as many as 15,000 or more people had voted illegally in Colorado in 2010. Even though this claim was totally debunked in subsequent analysis, it still found its way into leading conservative media outlets during last year’s elections. The unfounded claims of impending vote fraud got so far out of hand that Colorado’s incumbent Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams went on a press tour to assure voters that Colorado’s election system was secure.

So you’d think Williams would be leading the charge to shut down this latest round of silly-season speculation about “voter fraud” from Donald Trump and these longtime agents of unfounded misinformation, right?

Well, not exactly:

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams said today that his office will release voter-roll information that is public under state law to a presidential election commission that asked for “publicly-available roll data,” but it will withhold data that is confidential…

“We will provide publicly available information on the voter file, which is all they have asked for,” Williams said.

State law requires the office to provide a copy of the voter registration list upon request. The publicly available list includes the full name, address, year of birth, political party and vote history of persons registered to vote in the state. It does not contain personally identifiable information such as Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, or full dates of birth — and that information will be withheld from the commission.

The commission also sought the “views and recommendations” from secretaries of state across the political spectrum on seven specific issues, including whether they have evidence of voter fraud or registration fraud in their state, how the commission can support election administrators with regard to information technology security and vulnerabilities, and how voters can be protected from intimidation or disenfranchisement.

In response to news reports that Secretary of State Wayne Williams will cooperate with the Kobach commission’s request for already-public voter data, his office has been fiercely criticized with (we’re trying to say this nicely) varying degrees of factuality. If you’re worried that this data might find its way into the hands of “the Russians” to someday vote on your behalf or empty your checking account, you can stop worrying because they already have it. The data that Williams’ office is “releasing” to the Kobach commission is available to anyone who requests it for a nominal fee. Every political campaign in the state has it for the district they are running in, and there is a huge national industry that revolves around augmenting this data with everything else corporate America legally knows about you to create a frighteningly accurate profile. And it’s all legal.

So no, the problem is not that Williams is being cavalier with your personal information, because it’s not really that big a deal. The problem is that, in the statements Williams has made so far about the Kobach commission, he has validated the commission’s purpose–or at least failed to condemn it. Other states who have given this publicly available data to the commission have still managed to criticize the whole undertaking, much like Williams himself criticized Trump’s unfounded warnings of voter fraud in the 2016 elections.

Williams did the right thing last year, and the way to follow that up now is to clearly state the facts that every responsible Colorado elections official already know: we don’t have vote fraud in Colorado on any level that justifies impeding access to the franchise. That any attempt to “crack down” on supposed vote fraud would disenfranchise more legal voters than it would catch fraud. This commission is a a solution in search of a problem, with ulterior motives that are plain to see.

Before Williams hands over your data, let’s see that in a statement.

Get More Smarter on Friday (June 30)

Happy 150th birthday, hosers. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► A group of protestors with disabilities who were staging a sit-in at the Denver office of Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) chanted on Thursday that they “would rather go to jail than die without Medicaid.” The response from Gardner’s office: Why not both?

As Denver7 reports:

A group of advocates, many of whom who are disabled, were removed and arrested by Denver police after more 48 hours of protest at U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner’s office. The advocates took up residency to demand the Republican senator from Colorado vote against the Senate health care bill…

…a spokesman for the Denver Police Department said the department acted on a signed complaint from a representative from Gardner’s office. A total of ten protesters were arrested and now face a primary charge of trespassing.

The protest at Gardner’s office has become a national story. Hundreds of thousands of people have viewed the Facebook Live video from the arrests:

 

► If you’ve checked your email at all in the past 36 hours, you are probably aware that tonight is a big fundraising deadline. Candidates for state and federal offices have until 11:59 pm to collect donations that will be included on their Q2 finance report. Some candidates may release fundraising numbers for Q2 in the coming days, but full reports will not be available to the public until mid-July.

 

► If you thought that Republicans couldn’t muck up healthcare policy any worse than they have already, we have some bad news for you. As the Washington Post reports:

As health-care legislation continues to stall, President Trump pitched a new idea in a tweet Friday morning, suggesting that the Senate could repeal the Affordable Care Act now and deal with replacing it later.

“If Republican Senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately REPEAL, and then REPLACE at a later date!” the president tweeted from his personal account.

Doing so could leave in the lurch more than 20 million Americans who now have private health plans or Medicaid coverage under the ACA and would lose that insurance with no guarantee of any alternative. And the tweet seems to contradict Trump’s earlier promises that he would provide “insurance for everybody” and that he would repeal and replace Obamacare as soon as he took office.

If at first (and second, and third, etc.) you don’t succeed…bring out the dynamite.

 

► Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams rolled over quickly after a request to release massive amounts of voter data from President Trump’s so-called “Election Integrity Commission.” As Denver7 reports:

The vice chair of President Donald Trump’s controversial Election Integrity Commission wants the full name, address, date of birth, affiliated political party, last four Social Security number digits and voting history since 2006 of every voter not only in Colorado, but in the entire U.S., and wants that information to be made available to the public…

…the ACLU of Colorado balked at Williams’ adherence to the request, saying it was part of a voter suppression effort by the government.

“President Trump’s baseless claim that millions of illegal voters participated in the 2016 election has been summarily debunked. Yet the federal government is pushing forward on a massive voter suppression effort based on myths and outright lies about voter fraud,” said ACLU of Colorado Public Policy Director Denise Maes. “Colorado’s Secretary of State should not willingly participate in a politically-motivated federal campaign to intimidate voters and suppress the vote.”

The commission Kobach is the vice chair of was created earlier this year after Trump made his false claim that several million people voted illegally in last year’s election.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Good News! June 16-23, 2017

(Because Lord knows we can use some – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

This was a hard week to write “Good News” for. Still, there was some.

Small victories, local heroes, sweet stories, random kindnesses, unexpected grace, cold justice served up on a hot plate…that’s what this diary is about. As always, your interpretation of what is “good news” is probably different than mine.

This week, it’s all about the heat, voters, immigrant rights, cannabis, and beer. Farmer’s markets. Buying local. No sports news, because the only sports I halfway understand are basketball and baseball. Anything else, I’m the one looking at you to see when to stand up and cheer.

Environmental / energy

It’s freaking hot in Colorado, especially on the western slope , down south, and in Denver, but the head of the EPA won’t say if climate change is a hoax, although his boss says it is.

Good news: It’s not as hot as Phoenix’s 119 degrees . Even AZ Sen. McCain thinks this global warming thing is the real deal.   Plastic mailboxes are melting in Arizona – it’s that hot.  (Photo from reddit, via Buzzfeed)

 

MacGregor Ranch is piloting a program to work closely with the NRCS to cut underbrush and mitigate wildfire risk, since it is so freaking hot in Colorado. Drought and wildfires are the two main hazards Colorado experiences from climate change. Here’s the video from the pilot project.

Virgin Mobile and several other big retailers are planning to conserve energy by running their trucking fleets more efficiently.

Coal India, the world’s largest coal mining company, will shut down 37 of its mines that are no longer economically viable. The lost energy will be replaced mainly with solar.

Clean energy jobs remain the fastest-growing employment sector in Colorado  – with 62,000 added last year.  65% of those jobs are in energy efficiency.   This all helps Colorado to have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation at 2.3%.    Rates for youth under 24 were at 6%, and for Hispanics at 5%, still lower than most other states.

There’s still some good fishing around Colorado. Get’em while there’s still water enough to fish in.

And you can drive to your fishing spot on roads you won’t have to pay an extra tax on, per the Colorado Business Coalition. Amendment 267 passed, funding $3 Billion for road repair and maintenance; however, $10 billion was needed. Where will that come from?

The “Dog Days” are  approaching. If you see poor Puddles panting in a hot car, you can break in to save the pet – but not legally,  in Colorado, until August.

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Good news! Week of June 11- 17, 2017

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Small victories, local heroes, sweet stories, random kindnesses, unexpected grace, cold justice served up on a hot plate…that’s what this diary is about. As always, your interpretation of what is “good news” is probably different than mine. And that’s fine. Something I’m missing? Add it in the comments.

LGBT:

Massive Marches may move us, but the  biggest and gayest parade this year in Colorado will be Pridefest, this Sunday June 18. Civic Center Park will host the celebration all weekend. For your daily minimum requirement of fabulousness, go to Pridefest Denver. (Photo from 2016 Pridefest, Wikipedia Commons)

Pridefest Denver 2016 -from Wikipedia commons

LGBT hero: One of the Capitol Police agents wounded in the recent terrorist attack in DC was Crystal Griner, a married lesbian woman. Griner and her fellow officers, including David Bailey , rushed the shooter, taking him down and preventing a massacre.

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Good News! Week of June 3-June 10

(Get More…Gooder! – promoted by Colorado Pols)

This diary, which I hope to publish every Friday, will be all about small victories in the big battles: People doing the right thing for the right reasons. Stories of bravery, generosity, caring, and integrity. Where possible, I’ve connected this to Colorado politics and stories.

This is a selfish project for me – I need to see those small victories and uplifting stories just to keep going as an activist. Without them, it’s too easy to be overwhelmed by the flood of bad news and attacks on democracy and civil rights, and simply stop trying to keep politicians accountable.

There are many “good news” items I haven’t covered; more possible categories for good news are: Race, discrimination, justice, bizarre news, animals, marches, town halls, community organizing, “the resistance”. Where another organization such as ProgressNow Colorado reports on “How to fight back this week”, I’m not going to duplicate coverage. As always, add your own “good news” stories and commentary.

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Thiry’s Theory: They’re MY Ballot Measures, So Do What I Want

“I think the difference between what he wants and what we want is that we’re interested in elections and he’s just interested in getting elected.”
Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert (Denver Post, 5/1/17)

The Colorado legislative session will come to a close on Wednesday, but things are getting nasty in the final days of the 2017 session.

A big television advertising blitz started this weekend as part of a last-ditch effort to convince lawmakers to go in a different direction on legislation implementing Proposition 108 — the shoddily-crafted 2016 ballot measure that would allow Unaffiliated voters to participate in partisan primaries. We wrote last week about this deep-in-the-weeds political battle, which revolves around DaVita CEO Kent Thiry’s gubernatorial aspirations and his misplaced belief that Unaffiliated voters are the magic carpet that will carry him through a crowded Republican primary next June.

Thiry spent millions of dollars bankrolling Prop. 108 (as well as Prop. 107, which creates a Presidential Primary in Colorado); both measures were approved by Colorado voters, but because they were so vaguely-worded, it is up to the legislature and the Secretary of State to figure out how to implement these changes. Bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senators Kevin Lundberg (R-Larimer County) and Steve Fenberg (D-Boulder) is attempting to bridge this gap, but Thiry doesn’t like a central idea that election officials would make note of which partisan primary ballots were chosen by Unaffiliated voters.

DaVita CEO Kent Thiry is making it rain for GOP consultants.

Thiry is concerned that tracking this information will scare off Unaffiliated voters from participating in primary elections, but as we wrote on Wednesday, the more important concerns here should be about transparency and accountability:

The choices on your ballot are yours, and yours alone, and that’s not going to change. But transparency and accountability should supersede all other interests when it comes to our elections. If we can’t track which ballots were cast in general, then there’s no way to know if your vote was even counted. If we don’t know how many people actually returned ballots in each particular primary, then we are living in a Banana Republic where we just have to assume that everything was on the level because some election official (or rich guy) told us it was cool.

From what we hear, Thiry bankrolled a $50,000 television ad campaign that began on Friday in an effort to get Lundberg and Fenberg to do what he wants instead of what they (and Secretary of State Wayne Williams) believes is in the best interest of Colorado voters. Thiry hired infamous right-wing rock-thrower Ben Howe  the RedState guy whose previous clients include Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. John Cornyn, and Citizens United — to produce the TV spot below (click on the image to watch the ad):

It is certainly not unprecedented to see TV ads targeting specific legislation under the State Capitol, but it doesn’t happen often…and definitely not in the final days of a legislative session. This is also an odd way to go about trying to get what you want in Thiry’s case — a millionaire businessman who sponsored ballot measures with a goal of trying to increase his chances of being elected governor is now hoping to convince voters that a bipartisan group of lawmakers is going rogue on a complicated issue that the average person isn’t likely to understand (or care about) one way or the other. If Thiry wanted Prop. 108 to be administered in a specific way, then he should have made sure that the ballot language was crystal clear on the implementation front.

Thiry just wants lawmakers to do what he says. He spent millions of dollars on this idea and he can threaten to throw around plenty more cash — which GOP consulting firms are more than happy to collect — but that doesn’t make him right. Lawmakers and the Secretary of State are trying to implement the wishes of voters in a manner that maintains the integrity of Colorado’s voting process and reduces the likelihood of ballot spoilage in the event that voters inadvertently check the wrong box on a ballot.

We’ll take transparency and accountability over the wishes of Thiry in this case. We don’t doubt that voters will agree.

Transparency and Accountability? Yes, Please

The Colorado legislature is scheduled to end its 2017 session one week from today, which has both the House and Senate scrambling to check off items on their “to-do lists.” One of the pressing issues that is causing much hand-wringing in the final days of the 2017 session revolves around trying to figure out how to administer two poorly-written ballot measures approved by voters last November. As Brian Eason writes for the Denver Post, this includes trying to figure out how to administer two poorly-written ballot measures approved by voters in 2016:

The dispute stems from propositions 107 and 108, ballot initiatives approved by Colorado voters in November that open partisan primary elections in the state, including a re-established presidential primary, to unaffiliated voters.

Differences over how to effectively administer the new primaries have become a broader fight that’s partly motivated by politics. The procedure the state ultimately devises could affect how many unaffiliated voters decide to participate in next year’s gubernatorial primaries and beyond…

…As the legislative session nears its close on May 10, lawmakers are rushing to introduce legislation to set up new election procedures needed to implement the two initiatives. They will also require more funding — an estimated $5 million to $7 million in presidential election years.

Some of the decisions — such as how to format the ballot — will be left to the secretary of state’s office to manage through administrative rule-making.

The legislation, which Sens. Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, and Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, plan to carry, is still being ironed out.

Proposition 108, which passed with the support of 53 percent of the voters in 2016, was created to allow Unaffiliated voters in Colorado to participate in partisan primaries. In theory, this would prompt more people to vote in primary elections (including Presidential primaries, which is where Proposition 107 enters the picture). But because Prop. 108 was so vaguely-written, the legislature and the Secretary of State’s office are now scrambling to figure out how to implement these changes without creating a rash of spoiled ballots and ultimately making our elections less transparent than they are already.

If you are a registered Democrat or Republican in Colorado, you will automatically receive a ballot for your party’s primary election in June 2018. This is not particularly complicated. But if you are an Unaffiliated voter who can now vote in one of these primary elections, this becomes much more confusing. Unaffiliated voters can only cast votes on one partisan primary ballot; if a voter marks a name in both a Democratic and Republican primary, for example, then their vote is “spoiled” (a fancy word for “not counted”).

County clerks could send Unaffiliated voters separate ballots for each partisan primary, but you still need to convince these voters to return only one ballot. This would be a huge waste of time and money, of course, and the county clerks hate the idea; counties are only reimbursed financially for every ballot that is returned by Election Day — not for every ballot that is mailed to a voter. Colorado could also decide to create a super-gigantic consolidated ballot for Unaffiliated voters, which would look something like this humongous mess that is sent out in Washington state.

This is only part of the issue that is creating fresh controversy in the legislature. Some supporters of Prop. 108 are aghast at the idea that election officials would make note of which partisan primary ballots were chosen by Unaffiliated voters. It seems fairly obvious that we need to account for all of the ballots that are received on Election Day, as the Colorado Independent notes in a separate story about the controversy:

Jeffrey Roberts, who runs the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition and who watchdogs open records and open government in the state, says the privacy interests are obvious but the public interest aspect for disclosure might be harder to see.

“Many people are listed as unaffiliated voters because they want to be perceived as independent and don’t want to be bugged by operatives from any political party during an election cycle, although that may be unavoidable,” he says. But, he adds, people concerned about the integrity of elections might want that information to make sure all the numbers add up after the ballots are cast.

“It could help the public ensure that votes have been counted accurately, and it would provide a more complete picture of voting in a primary election,” says Roberts.

DaVita CEO Kent Thiry

Keep in mind here that your vote is still secret no matter how it is classified, but there is nevertheless a nonsense belief that Unaffiliated voters should get to be more secretive than partisan voters. Let’s go back to Eason’s story in the Denver Post:

And it’s not just the parties that have been trying to persuade elections officials. Kent Thiry, the DaVita chief executive and a potential Republican candidate for governor, met with Williams last week to voice objections to the plan and pledged to fight provisions that would allow partisan tracking, according to the secretary of state’s office. Thiry bankrolled the open primary ballot initiatives to the tune of $2.4 million last year.

“I think the difference between what he wants and what we want is that we’re interested in elections and he’s just interested in getting elected,” said Suzanne Staiert, the deputy secretary of state. [Pols emphasis]

Thiry did not immediately respond to requests for comment left with two spokespeople. But the concern among critics is that tracking independent voters by party could deter participation by a growing block that prefers not to declare an affiliation with one party or another.

Thiry is a likely candidate for Governor in 2018 who bankrolled Propositions 107 and 108 in part because he believed he could better win a primary election — Thiry is a registered Republican — if Unaffiliated voters were allowed to cast votes. Some of this belief is driven by the nonsensical argument that Unaffiliated voters are all just a bunch of “moderates” who don’t choose a political party because they are too centrist to fit into a specific bucket.

The idea that most Unaffiliated voters are completely independent and not influenced by partisan politics is hogwash; studies have shown that most Unaffiliated voters tend to regularly support candidates from one party or another regardless of their stated affiliation. Anybody who has ever made calls or knocked on doors of Unaffiliated voters can tell you that they are often as partisan as anyone else. Sure, there are some Unaffiliated voters who really vote all over the ballot in every election — there are also plenty of Democrats and Republicans who do the same.

The choices on your ballot are yours, and yours alone, and that’s not going to change. But transparency and accountability should supersede all other interests when it comes to our elections. If we can’t track which ballots were cast in general, then there’s no way to know if your vote was even counted. If we don’t know how many people actually returned ballots in each particular primary, then we are living in a Banana Republic where we just have to assume that everything was on the level because some election official (or rich guy) told us it was cool.