Colorado Election System Was Targeted by Russian Hackers

President Trump with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on May 10 at the White House.

Ernest Luning has some breaking news this afternoon on Russian election hacking attempts in Colorado:

Russian hackers tried without success to get into Colorado’s computerized voter system before last year’s election, officials with the Colorado secretary of state’s office said Friday.

The Department of Homeland Security informed Secretary of State Wayne Williams’ office in a phone call before noon that Colorado was among states targeted last summer by hackers earlier identified as Russians — contrary to what DHS officials told Williams earlier this year — but stressed that the hackers didn’t get into the state’s electronic voter data system, Gary Zimmerman, chief of staff for the secretary of state’s office, told Colorado Politics.

“They confirmed we are one of the 21 states where intelligence sources — they didn’t tell us what those were — advised they detected scanning activity here in Colorado,” Zimmerman said. “The analogy would be if somebody went to your home and jiggled the windows and the door handles to see if any were unlocked. That’s what scanning is. At the same time, DHS also confirmed there is absolutely no evidence they penetrated our systems or network.”

The DHS official who informed Zimmerman of the attempted breach only found out Colorado was among the targeted states “an hour or so before we did,” Zimmerman said. “Apparently this information was known in September or October of lat year,” he added, although he couldn’t say whether anyone within DHS had that knowledge.

We’ll update this story as necessary; here’s more from NPR on how and why DHS today informed the 21 states about hacking concerns.

Must-Read: Dive Deep Into Redistricting Smoke and Mirrors

Earlier this month, a renewed effort to “reform” the state’s process for redistricting and reapportionment of Colorado’s congressional and state legislative districts respectively–a reboot of a redistricting ballot measure that the courts threw off the 2016 ballot. The group of former legislators and other public officials behind the effort haven’t changed much from last year, being led by former GOP House Speaker Frank McNulty and including others like former Rep. Kathleen Curry–who disaffiliated from the Democratic Party before losing a bid re-election as an unaffiliated candidate.

One of the major reasons the last initiative failed was a perceived failure on the part of organizers, while claiming the effort was “bipartisan” and aimed at including all stakeholders, to include large portions of the community in the process of developing the initiative. Voting and civil rights organizations complained that the plan would limit minority representation in the redistricting process. In the end the initiative for 2016 was disqualified because the Colorado Supreme Court determined its scope to be to broad for the state’s “single subject” requirement.

Yesterday, the Colorado Independent’s Corey Hutchins posted a must-read recap of last year’s failed effort, and how it morphed into the so-called “Fair Districts Colorado” campaign currently taking shape. And although the packaging has been updated, it doesn’t seem like the product has gotten any better. We can’t excerpt the whole story, so make sure you click through and read the whole thing:

A coalition that launched a revamped plan it says would take partisanship out of how state and federal political districts are drawn is facing suspicions about its motives in a state with a bitter history that has left its district maps stained with bad blood…

In Colorado, this redistricting plan isn’t new— but readers could be forgiven for thinking so.

Initial write-ups on the proposal in mainstream newspapers and the alternative press did not point out that the effort isn’t new. The plan is similar to one put forward in 2015 and 2016 by some of the same people involved in this latest effort.

…Knocked down last year, the group — then called End Gerrymandering Now — vowed it would try again. It included former GOP House Speaker Frank McNulty and former GOP Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, as well as former Democratic Secretary of State Bernie Buescher, PR pro Rich Coolidge, and ex-lawmaker Kathleen Curry, a Democrat who later became unaffiliated.

All of them are working on this new proposal in a campaign they are now calling Fair Districts Colorado. They launched a new website last week…

Across the nation there is a plausible case to be made that congressional and state legislative districts in many states have been skewed to favor the party in charge of the process. Because Republicans made big gains in state legislative races across the nation in 2010, adding to control they already enjoyed in many state houses, this has frequently meant districts drawn to favor the Republican Party–with attendant consequences that include suppression of traditionally Democratic communities of color.

But not in Colorado. In our state, an era of Democratic dominance in state legislative politics that began with 2004’s “Colorado Model” takeover of the General Assembly put Democrats in charge. In the 2011 redistricting/reapportionment process, two different drafting and approval processes tried to balance the statutory and constitutional requirements of new district maps with an unwritten priority of keeping districts as competitive as possible. If you followed the high-drama but ultimately successful 2011 process in Colorado, and witnessed the results in subsequent elections carried in the redrawn districts–featuring races all over the state hotly contested to the bitter end and decided by hundreds of votes–you can see the wisdom of their approach gainfully at work.

And above all, the maps drawn in 2011 for Colorado haven’t been that bad for the party out of power when they were drawn. The proof of that is as easy to find as Colorado’s majority Republican congressional delegation and control of the state senate. Are we saying the process in Colorado can’t be improved upon? Of course not. But it’s a lot better than the horror-story gerrymandered states people read about. And that’s a point voters in Colorado need to understand.

Which brings us back to End Gerrymandering Now “Fair Districts Colorado,” and the usual suspects fronting the renewed effort to “fix” our system:

(more…)

Hey, Another Dumb Redistricting Effort!

Here we go again.

Back in late 2015, there was a short-lived “bipartisan” [cough, cough] attempt at putting forward a redistricting initiative for the 2016 ballot. This boneheaded proposal stumbled out of the blocks and was quickly abandoned because it would have actually dis-empowered voters of color and created new legislative and congressional districts that were actually less competitive than they are now.

Many of the same people behind that effort — which was briefly known as “Initiative 55” — are back with another set of proposals to change the process of redistricting and reapportionment, and it’s still a jumbled mess. When we say that this is the same group of people, we mean that literally; one of the issue committee that supported “Initiative 55” was called “End Gerrymandering Now!” and has just been renamed “Fair Districts Colorado.”

This new redistricting/reapportionment effort includes three ballot proposals — two statutory changes and one Constitutional measure — all of which run into similar problems when you look at the details. We certainly wouldn’t argue that our current system for drawing district boundaries is in great shape, but if you don’t make the right changes in a new proposal you run the very real risk of making things worse than they are now. That’s exactly the problem with these new proposals. As Brian Eason reports for the Denver Post:

The attempt comes at a time when gerrymandering — the act of skewing district lines to favor one party or another — is under heightened scrutiny across the country. The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year agreed to hear a case out of Wisconsin, in which it will be asked to decide whether partisan gerrymandering disenfranchises voters in violation of the Constitution.

Members of the coalition, which calls itself Fair Districts Colorado, hope that more competitive districts will lead to more moderate politicians, who are more accountable to voters.

Every 10 years new boundaries are drawn for state and federal legislative districts in order to account for population changes reflected in the annual U.S. Census. Exactly how this process is handled varies from state to state, but the general rationale for most groups trying to change the process is to create more competitive seats that aren’t largely decided by partisan primaries. The weird thing about this new effort from “Fair Districts Colorado” is that the measures specifically rank competitiveness at the bottom of the list of factors that should be considered when drawing new boundaries.

And just who gets to ultimately draw the new maps under these proposals? That’s the other strange part: Essentially-anonymous staff members are directed to create the new boundaries behind closed doors with no public transparency or communication with a nonpartisan redistricting commission. What could go wrong?!?

Redistricting/reapportionment is a complicated issue. With substantial revisions, perhaps the “Fair Districts Colorado” proposals could be workable solutions. As they currently stand, however, it’s more likely that they would just make things worse.

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…

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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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