Colorado Republicans Fractured and Flummoxed

Colorado Republicans are having a hard-enough time convincing supporters to vote ONCE.

Colorado Republicans are having a hard-enough time convincing supporters to vote ONCE.

As Dave Weigel reports for the Washington Post today, there is a stark difference in Colorado when it comes to GOTV efforts that does not bode well for Republicans. As Weigel writes, Republicans “are counting on voters to come home; the Democrats are simply counting voters.”:

…The gap between strategies is visible everywhere, even at the early-vote rallies the parties have held to close the campaign. On Friday afternoon, former president Bill Clinton made three stops across the state, joined by Democratic leaders. The subject, each time, was how to turn in votes. Every attendee was given a sheet with possible volunteer times, and staff members flitted around to pick them up….

The same day, the campaign of Republican nominee Donald Trump sent two of its surrogates, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R), to a faith group’s get-out-the-vote event in an Aurora senior living center. There was no one at the door urging people to volunteer. Two boxes of Trump campaign rally signs in the back of the room went largely untouched. In their speeches, Carson, Fallin and state party chairman Steve House focused less on the mechanics of the election than the need to defeat Clinton…

…Despite big victories in 2014, Colorado’s Republican Party has been riven by infighting, the cruelest of it pitting House against state Attorney General Cynthia Coffman. Her husband, U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman (Colo.), represents a district that covers Aurora. He is one of a handful of Republicans running explicitly anti-Trump ads.

Well, would you look at that: Another Coffmangate reference!

Setting aside the infighting narrative for a moment, Republican problems with field operations in Colorado (and across the country) have been a consistent theme in 2016. The GOP has had serious problems with its turnout operation in Colorado for several cycles now, and as Weigel’s story shows, not much has been done to address the issue. This was the first election cycle we can recall in which Republicans did not outpace Democrats in early voting returns, which is a problem even without a Republican Presidential nominee who is about as interested in field operations as he is in fact-checking.

You can certainly blame an enthusiasm gap for some of the GOP’s voter turnout problems, but polls have shown that Democrats aren’t all that thrilled about Hillary Clinton, either. For whatever reason, Colorado Republicans just aren’t adapting to the changing electorate in Colorado.

Mike Coffman Must Have Forgotten About the Presidential Race

You didn't think I was really going to answer that question, did you?

You didn’t think I was really going to answer that question, did you?

Once upon a time…

…Or on September 15, 2016, if we’re being specific, Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) promised to tell his constituents which candidate he would be choosing in the race for President. Here’s precisely what Coffman campaign spokesperson Cinamon Watson told the Denver Post for a story appearing on Sept. 15:

“He plans on watching the debates and making a decision when ballots go out.”

Well, ballots goed out on October 17th, and Coffman has yet to articulate on his preferred selection in the race for President. On October 18th, Coffman did tell 9News that he wasn’t sure if he would even vote in the Presidential race at all, but that’s all we know to this point. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has not forgotten about Coffman’s promise, and neither has the Huffington Post:

With just days until election day, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) still won’t say whether he’ll vote for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump

…Several Republicans in tight reelection races have taken a similar position to Toomey and declined to reveal if they intend to vote for Trump. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) won’t say who he is voting for, and Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.), who is running for Senate, has said voters don’t have a right to know who he is voting for.

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) said he would let voters know if he was voting for Trump by the time voting ballots went out in his state. But Coffman still has yet to say if he would vote for Trump ―  and ballots went out on Oct. 17.

Coffman’s continued silence on the Presidential race is particularly absurd given that attorneys representing his campaign regularly demand that media outlets “cease and desist” from running advertisements suggesting that Coffman is a Trump supporter. Coffman could kill two birds with one stone here — fulfilling his promise to say who he will support for President and making it clear that he is voting for someone else — but like many other Colorado Republicans, he is petrified of further alienating diehard Trump backers whose support he still needs if he hopes to win re-election.

In case Coffman has just forgotten about the Presidential race, we’d like to remind him that there are 24 other Presidential candidates on the ballot in Colorado whose last names do not rhyme with “Trump” or “Clinton.”

Where’s the Votes?

We’ve been updating you regularly on the rate of ballot returns in Colorado, and the news has been pretty consistent: Democrats have been returning ballots at a greater rate than Republicans from wire-to-wire. This is an early voting advantage that has always favored Republicans in Colorado, so the fact that Democrats are ahead at all in pre-Election Day voting is significant news.

According to the latest ballot return figures provided by the Secretary of State’s office, Republicans are starting to catch up, albeit slowly:

Democrats:     508,938
Republicans:  494,757
Unaffiliated:   383,275
TOTAL:          1,406,573

Without enough context, these numbers leave a lot of room for speculation. Where are the rest of the votes? In which counties should we expect to see the largest increases through Election Day? Where in the hell is Hinsdale County?

To help answer those questions, we made a chart:

Colorado ballot return comparison

What does this all mean? That depends on which prior election year you use for comparison’s sake, though any comparison would be difficult given that this is the first year in history that Colorado is an all-mail ballot state in a Presidential cycle.

Since this is a Presidential election year, and since mail ballots should theoretically increase turnout, it’s probably best to compare 2016 turnout with 2012; in that case, it looks like voters in the most populous counties in Colorado are only about halfway to their projected totals. This is likely good news for Democrats, because historically it is Democrats who have usually turned out in greater numbers the closer we get to Election Day.

So, if you’ve volunteered for get-out-the-vote (GOTV) efforts this weekend, your work will not be in vain. Also, this chart is worthless if you want to find Hinsdale County.

Throwback Thursday: Denver Post, October 31st, 1910

Here’s a blast from Colorado’s pre-election past that was forwarded to us today: the front page of our own Denver Post from Halloween 1910:

fullsizerender-4

As the editorial cartoon you can see above depicts, the Post supported Referendum 3, the Colorado Initiative and Referendum Rights Amendment giving Colorado voters the right to amend the state’s constitution by popular initiative as a check against special interest control of the legislative process.

106 years later as the state votes on a measure to limit constitutional amendments, we could see the same cartoon being relevant with only minor edits.

Poll: Will Amendment 71 Pass?

With the 2016 elections less than one week away, we’re rolling out informal, highly unscientific polls of our readers to gauge where key races and ballot measures stand. As always with our reader polls, we’re looking for your honest prediction–not your personal preference.

Amendment 71 would tighten the requirements to qualify and pass constitutional amendment ballot measures. The amendment gives 1/35th of the state’s population veto power over ballot measures, and raise the threshold for passage to 55%.

[cardoza_wp_poll id=33]

Poll: Will Propositions 107, 108 Pass?

With the 2016 elections less than one week away, we’re rolling out informal, highly unscientific polls of our readers to gauge where key races and ballot measures stand. As always with our reader polls, we’re looking for your honest prediction–not your personal preference.

Propositions 107 and 108 would change the process for primary elections in Colorado. Proposition 107 would restore the presidential primary election following general chaos during this year’s presidential caucusing on both sides. Proposition 108 is more complicated, allowing unaffiliated voters to participate in primary elections that were previously the exclusive domain of registered party voters.

One poll for each proposition follows. Happy voting!

[cardoza_wp_poll id=30]

[cardoza_wp_poll id=29]

“Grassroots” Amendment 71 Campaign: Too Clever By Half

amendment71Denver7’s Marshall Zelinger reports on a misfire from the campaign to pass Amendment 71, the “Raise The Bar” measure to make it harder to to amend the state’s constitution:

Voters in Centennial alerted Denver7 to a hand-delivered flyer that some felt was über personal.

The flyers were in envelopes that appeared to be handwritten.

“It looked like it was an envelope from a neighbor,” said Centennial voter Mickki Langston. “I had just opened the door in the morning, and it fell. My immediate thought was, ‘Oh, there’s a neighbor who actually cares about this amendment.”

The envelope contains information from “Raise the Bar,” the group in support of Amendment 71. The amendment would make it more difficult to amend the state’s constitution by changing the requirements for signature collection and the overall vote.

The outside of the envelope reads: “Im (sic) your neighbor and Amendment 71 is important to me. I hope you’ll VOTE YES on Amendment 71!” It appears to be handwritten. Some of the ones delivered in Centennial had “Joey K” actually handwritten at the bottom.

But on closer analysis, there was little if anything “handwritten” about these notes:

“That just feels dishonest,” said Langston. “What bothers me is the irony of a campaign that is about preventing grassroots change using pretend grassroots tactics.”

Not only are the “handwritten” notes not authentic, being mass printed in a typeface that resembles handwriting, but the story of these fake “personal” messages provides a nice segue into the Yes on Amendment 71’s dubious claim to be “grassroots” at all:

“Raise the Bar” has received $5.1 million in contributions. Of that, about $160,000 is from 114 individuals who contributed $250 or less. The rest of the money is from corporations and businesses. More than $3 million has come from oil and gas companies. [Pols emphasis]

And that, dear reader, is how an idea that sounds good in the strategy session goes to hell in the execution.

Postal Workers Beg Trump To Shut The Hell Up

UPDATE: Statement from Doug Jaynes, president of the Colorado chapter of the National Letter Carriers’ Association:

“Postal workers take great pride in the integral role we play in Colorado’s election process. We are proud to play a part in ensuring that every Colorado voter, from the Front Range to the Western Slope, can cast their vote, knowing their ballot will be safely delivered by Colorado’s letter carriers and other postal employees – just as we have sworn under our oath of office to protect and uphold the Constitution.

Donald Trump’s attacks on the integrity of Colorado’s postal employees – nearly a quarter of whom are veterans – are offensive and insulting. He owes the thousands of dedicated Coloradans who uphold the integrity of our state’s elections an apology.”

—–

tossing-the-mail-awayThe Denver Post’s John Aguilar reports on yesterday’s response by Colorado postal workers to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s suggestion that they might trash ballots from conservative voters:

The head of the union representing postal carriers, accompanied by an energized Gov. John Hickenlooper, on Monday denounced remarks made by GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump over the weekend that raised questions about the integrity of Colorado’s mail-ballot election.

Doug Jaynes, the president of the Colorado State Association of Letter Carriers, called Trump’s remarks during a Saturday rally in Golden in which the candidate talked about mailed-in ballots being potentially thrown away an “insult” to his profession.

“It’s so important that people don’t get concerned that their ballots aren’t safe,” Jaynes told a small gathering of Hillary Clinton supporters at a Democratic campaign office in Lakewood…

Gov. John Hickenlooper punched one of the more obvious holes in Trump’s logic:

Hickenlooper, a Democrat, touted the integrity of the U.S. Postal Service and asked in a scoffing tone how postal carriers would even know which ballots to discard if they were engaged in such activity.

“What do they have — X-ray eyes?” he asked, to laughter in the room. [Pols emphasis]

Of course, all of this is only funny if you’re not one of the people who believe Trump unquestioningly when he claims the election is “rigged” nationwide and especially here in Colorado. If you do believe Trump, you consider postal workers, Democrats at every level of government, and apparently even Republicans in an election supervisory role in our state to all be in on some kind of massive conspiracy.

Given the fact that postal letter carriers are out by themselves in the community every day, and already have to contend with unruly dogs trying to shred their ankles among other occupational hazards, you can understand why they don’t want the burning rage of Trumpmerica shadowing their every step. Especially after next Tuesday.

So for the record, neither postal workers, Republican county clerks, our Republican Secretary of State, nor anybody else who may be in lawful contact with your mail ballot once it leaves your physical custody has any desire to trash it.

Please share this important message with your friends.

Trump Questions Colorado Elections While Local Officials Fume

Donald Trump knows this much about Colorado elections.

Donald Trump knows this much about Colorado elections.

CNN reports from GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump’s rally in Greeley yesterday:

Donald Trump for the second day in a row questioned the validity of this swing state’s largely mail-in voting system, the latest instance of the Republican nominee expressing skepticism about the legitimacy of the electoral process.

Trump kicked off his rally here on Sunday by encouraging his supporters to “make sure” their ballots are properly counted, saying that he is a “skeptical person” when it comes to the state’s largely vote-by-mail process. He then encouraged his supporters to get a “new ballot” in person at a local polling location.

“They’ll give you a ballot, a new ballot. They’ll void your old ballot, they will give you a new ballot. And you can go out and make sure it gets in,” Trump said…

“In some places they probably do that four or five times. We don’t do that. But that’s great,” Trump said Sunday, appearing to hint at the possibility of voter fraud in Colorado, a rare prospect Trump has continued to hammer on the stump.

The spokesperson for Colorado’s Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams could not be any clearer with her response:

bartelselection

The Denver Post’s John Frank adds:

Reacting to Trump, Denver elections chief Amber McReynolds said Sunday the current mail-ballot process includes more checks than prior presidential elections.

“From my perspective, it’s just a lack of understanding of all the safeguards and all the processes that we have in Colorado,” she said. [Pols emphasis]

Trump’s “lack of understanding” about how elections work, either in Colorado or anywhere else, is nonetheless fueling a fresh round of conspiracy-making among Republicans bracing themselves for what may well be an historic defeat next week–and in the context of Trump’s vague threats to not respect the results of the election, a potentially scary development. As a Republican in the position of presiding his first statewide election this year, we have real sympathy for Secretary of State Williams and his longsuffering spox. Williams has to do the responsible thing, which is reassure the voters of Colorado that the system is sound, while not becoming too vocal in criticizing his party’s presidential nominee. It’s a tough needle to thread.

Is there more Williams could be doing to call out Trump’s baseless falsehoods about our elections? Probably. Is he doing more to combat this misinformation than his predecessor Scott “Honey Badger” Gessler would have done? Definitely–and that’s to Williams’ profound credit.

For the next week, we think one of the most important things every one of us who understands that our elections are not under threat from any kind of systemic fraud can do is tell everyone you know. Especially the people you know who are kind of, you know, unhinged. By openly attacking the election system just before an election he is likely to lose, Trump is playing with fire in a way we haven’t seen in American politics…maybe ever.

No one should be helping Trump undermine confidence in our most precious of institutions, and we’re relieved to see that Williams has this measure of integrity.

A Dozen People Voting Twice: Time To Panic! (Not Really)

Not recommended.

Not recommended.

As Election Day approaches and Republican electoral prospects get bleaker for a host of reasons that have nothing to do with the mechanics of voting, a significant number of (generally) conservative voters have sought consolation in speculation about the possibility of widespread vote fraud that might taint the results. These theories have been greatly boosted by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s oft-repeated claims that the election is “rigged,” and his refusal to promise to accept the results even if they’re adverse to him.

In Colorado, we’ve been dealing with allegations of “widespread election fraud” from Republican politicos for many years, particularly since former Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler made nationwide headlines with his subsequently debunked claims that “tens of thousands” of people had voted illegally in Colorado. In truth only a small number of cases were ever referred to prosecutors, and of those the vast majority were explainable by mundane circumstances.

In late September, CBS4 Denver’s Brian Maass reported that he had found a handful of cases in which registered voters who were deceased had ballots turned in after their deaths. The story spread rapidly in conservative media, and quickly lost any realistic sense of the scope of the problem–which was, again, maybe half a dozen cases in a state with 3.7 million registered voters.

To be clear, nobody should be happy about any case of vote fraud, but if the remedy for the problem uncovered would prevent more people from voting than what we’re seeing in cases of alleged fraud, the cure would be worse than the disease. And the debate isn’t occurring in a vacuum, because one side has consistently worked to roll back all kinds of voting reforms from early voting to mail ballots–not to prevent fraud, but to make it harder for voters demographically opposed to them to vote.

With all of this in mind, Maass ran another story last night, with a dozen (that’s twelve) anecdotal cases of Colorado voters allegedly voting twice:

An ongoing CBS4 voter fraud investigation has uncovered a dozen cases where Coloradans are suspected of voting twice. Previous CBS4 Investigations revealed ballots cast in the names of Coloradans who had been dead for months– sometimes years- before votes were cast in their names.

In six of the new cases, voting records show the same people voting twice in Colorado elections. In another six cases, people are suspected of voting in Colorado and another state during the same election cycle.

The cases of Colorado voters voting both in our state and another state appear to originate with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Kobach is almost as notorious as Scott Gessler for making sweeping statements about supposed vote fraud that don’t hold up under scrutiny. But in these instances, there do appear to be a few individuals who tried to vote in his state and in Colorado.

And in most cases they’re being prosecuted. Colorado and Kansas both participate in a voter verification system that checks the rolls in participating states for duplicates–in most cases, completely uncontroversial duplicates resulting from people moving without updating their registration. As Maas reports, some states don’t participate in that system, and CBS4 found a few Colorado voters also registered in other states who may have voted twice. The cases CBS4 disclosed details on are not exclusively with any one party–both Republicans and Democrats apparently did it.

As we said, no one is going to argue that such cases should be ignored. Especially in close elections, it doesn’t take much of this kind of shenanigans to potentially affect the result. But there is no rational way to aggregate these few cases of individuals attempting to beat the system into anything that could be considered a threat to our elections. There are safeguards against this kind of criminal behavior, and reforms that would make it harder to cheat need not make it harder to vote.

And no matter how deep your denial may be, this isn’t why Donald Trump is going to lose.

Why it’s a bad idea to explain how you’d cheat the election system, especially if you’re CO’s Secretary of State

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

Appearing on KNUS 710-AM Oct. 22, Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams explained to host Chuck Bonniwell and co-host Julie Hayden how he’d commit election fraud, if Williams were a bad guy, an “unethical Democrat,” as Boniwell put it.

Bonniwell: What would you do if you were a nefarious person trying to cheat the Colorado System? …This is what I would do. I’m not going to. I’m not saying I would do it. But if I were an unethical Democrat trying to rig the system, what would you tell them? How would you do it? You wouldn’t do it, but just to help [inaudible]. What would you do to corrupt the system?

Williams: If I were advising someone, it would not be through the system of online voter registration, because you got to have a driver’s license for that. The easiest way to do that in Colorado is you go in with a non-verifiable ID, a utility bill, and register to vote using that. And you cast a ballot with that. That’s why I think we need photo ID. I have testified asking the legislature to pass photo ID when I was a county commissioner, when I was a county clerk, when I was secretary of state. And they’ve never done it.

Williams said 50 Colorado voters, who registered and voted same day, later did return a post card from the address provided, raising questions about who they were and where they went. But this is light years away from proving that fraud was committed, and it’s consistent with how many citizens live. That is, they move a lot.

In fact, voter fraud has not been shown to be an almost nonexistent problemin states like Colorado that don’t require photo idea. A recent Loyala study gives you the details. In the wake of Trump’s accusations about voter fraud, media outlets across the country have confirmed that voter fraud is a nonissue in the U.S.

And Williams didn’t discuss the flip side, namely that photo ID laws stop legitimate voters from casting ballots. In nine states that passed such laws, it’s estimated that over 3 million voters will be affected.  That’s the real issue here.

(more…)

Left and right agree: vote NO on Amendment 71

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Meet one of Colorado’s most conservative Republicans, Rep. Justin Everett.

And one of his most liberal colleagues in the Colorado legislature, Rep. Joseph Salazar.

Everett and Salazar don’t agree on much. But one thing they do agree on: vote NO on Amendment 71.

Ballot Returns in Colorado Continue to Favor Democrats

Colorado Statesman reporter Ernest Luning has been diligently tracking ballot returns since ballots were first mailed last Monday. Today, Luning provides some important historical context:

(BTW: If you’re interested in regular updates on this topic, we’d suggest you follow Luning on Twitter: @eluning)

We’ve been marveling at the rate of ballot returns for Democrats since numbers first started to emerge last week, and now even Republican strategists are getting nervous. From Jon Murray of the Denver Post:

Right-leaning political consulting/polling firm Magellan Strategies has been poring over ballot returns today, and they don’t have good news for Republicans:

As of this morning, the total number of ballots returned is 287,854, an increase of 128,959 from yesterday morning’s tally. The increase in ballots returned among Democrat voters since yesterday morning was 55,476, bringing their current total to 118,444. The Republican ballot return total increased by 39,779, bringing their total to 94,734. If you do the math, the Democrat advantage over Republicans in ballots returned is now 23,710, nearly triple since yesterdays lead.

Based on our 10 years of experience tracking early and absentee voting in Colorado, it’s very clear that a Democrat wave election is in the making. Although there is still a lot of time before Election Day, Colorado Democrats have never had an early voting lead this large with two weeks to go. [Pols emphasis] In the 2008 election two weeks prior to Election Day, Democrats held an early turnout lead of 2,987 votes. (184,386 Democrats had voted / 181,399 Republicans had voted). In the 2012 election with two weeks to go, Republicans held a lead of 11,798 votes. (72,585 Democrats had voted / 84, 383 Republicans had voted.)

We’ve been saying for awhile in this space that we can’t recall another time when Democrats were continually outpacing Republicans in early voting. There’s not really much of a question that Colorado Republicans, by and large, do not appear to be enthusiastic about casting ballots this year; the key question at this point is just how bad turnout might get in the next 14 days.

Colorado Republicans Can Start to Panic Now

votebuttonLongtime Colorado political journalist Ernest Luning has been keeping track of ballot return figures via his Twitter account. This is not good for Republicans:

The last time that Democrats were this far ahead of Republicans in Colorado in early voting returns was…well, maybe never.

The biggest fear for the GOP in 2016 has always been that a terrible top of the ticket — headlined by Donald Trump and Darryl Glenn — would be so disinteresting/disgusting that otherwise reliable Republican voters just wouldn’t bother to vote at all. Right-leaning political pundits have been saying for months that Republican voters could save down-ballot candidates by splitting their ticket at the polls, but that was assuming Republican voters would actually, you know, fill in the bubbles on their ballot.

If this trend continues in Colorado through Election Day, Republican candidates are going to be wiped out across the board. Perhaps the Trump campaign would have been better off staffing their field offices with people who are old enough to drive a car.