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.

Tim Leonard: “Public” Doesn’t Want To Know Who’s Funding Who

Rep. Tim Leonard.

A press release yesterday from Colorado House Democrats announces the passage of new bills to require more disclosure from so-called “dark money” organizations paying for political campaign advertisements–sometimes with no information whatsoever as to their origins:

HB17-1261 ensures that voters know who is paying for mass election communications by requiring “paid for by” disclaimers on all electioneering materials.

“In the name of good government and transparency in our elections, this is a simple bill that allows Colorado voters to know who is paying for the mailers that show up in their mailbox,” said Majority Leader Becker, D-Boulder.

“To recast Matthew 6 and Luke 12, ‘Where your treasure is, there your ‘name’ shall be also,’” said Rep. Bridges.

HB17-1262 closes a crucial gap in reporting requirements between the date of the primary and 60 days before the general election. The bill applies the same disclosure requirements throughout the campaign—from before the primary and continuing up to the general election.

“Extending the window for required electioneering disclosures by three months is a modest fix to ensure Colorado voters know who is spending money to influence their vote,” said Rep. Bridges, D-Greenwood Village. “Together, these bills bring dark money into the light. In Colorado we call that being a straight shooter and Colorado voters deserve nothing less.”

But as the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby reports, Republicans just don’t think the voters care who’s paying:

Republicans in the Colorado House questioned the need for two political campaign reform measures that Democrats were pushing Tuesday…

The second bill requires all campaigns and issue committees to file campaign finance reports every two weeks throughout the summer between the June primaries and the November election. Under current law, those biweekly reports are only required within 30 days before a primary and 60 days before a general election.

…Rep. Tim Leonard, R-Evergreen, said that measure doesn’t help the public learn anything about their elections.

“This is not for the general public,” he said. [Pols emphasis] “This is for the political wonks that want to know who’s spending what money where, on what groups, so that (they) can counter back with the amount of money that (they’re) watching being spent.”

So yes, it’s true that “political wonks” are generally the first people who examine and report the contents of fundraising reports. But that doesn’t change the obvious fact that all such political information is most certainly intended for “the general public,” either through direct consumption or via news reports and alerts from political activist groups.

In every battle over campaign finance laws, there are two principal battlefields: limits on contributions, and disclosure of spending. We can debate the question of limits on donations all we want, but generally disclosure–not limits, just information–is not something most people would consider controversial.

But for Republicans in the Colorado legislature, it seems to be a real problem.

BREAKING: Ex-Colorado GOP Chair Charged With Voter Fraud

Former Colorado GOP chairman Steve Curtis.

As the Denver Post’s John Frank reports, former Colorado GOP chairman Steve Curtis, now a radio host on 560 KLZ talk radio, has been charged with felony forgery and one misdemeanor count of voter fraud:

Former Colorado Republican party chairman Steve Curtis, 57, has been charged with voter fraud and forgery, prosecutors say.

Curtis, an AM radio talk show host, appeared Tuesday in Weld County District Court, where he was advised that he faces two counts in the case: forgery, a Class 5 felony, and misdemeanor voter fraud.

Weld County District Attorney’s spokesman Tyler Hill confirmed the charges, but said he couldn’t discuss details of the allegations, which were first reported by KDVR-Channel 31.

However a criminal complaint filed Feb. 1 says the forgery charge stems from “intent to defraud” a woman on the 2016 general election mail-in ballot. The complaint says Curtis lives in Aurora.

As Frank reports, Curtis was the chairman of the Colorado Republican Party through 1999–far back enough that the kids won’t remember him, but excepting TABOR mastermind Doug Bruce’s tax evasion conviction related to an electioneering nonprofit he operated, this is the highest-ranking politico we can recall to be charged with a felony election crime.

And it should go without saying, if Colorado Republicans want to be taken seriously on the issue of election fraud, they really need to stop being literally the only people who actually commit election fraud in Colorado.

Seriously, folks.

Marshall Zelinger Wins Cronkite Award For Keyser Fraud Story

Local TV news reporter Marshall Zelinger.

Today, the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism announced the winners of the prestigious Walter Cronkite Awards for Excellence in Television Political Journalism. A couple of familiar Colorado reporters made the roster, including Marshall Zelinger (formerly of Denver7 now with 9NEWS) and his breaking of arguably the biggest Colorado political story of 2016:

At the awards event in 2005, Cronkite warned that “it’s going to be, to a large degree, up to us in television and radio, in broadcasting” to equip Americans “to perform the act of intelligently selecting our leaders…. If we fail at that, our democracy, our republic is, I think, in serious danger.” Announcing the winners, USC Annenberg Professor and Lear Center Director Marty Kaplan said, “Today, at this seriously dangerous moment for our democracy, these Cronkite Awards honor journalists, stations and networks stepping up to their civic responsibility to tell Americans the truth.”

The trophies will be presented at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Friday, April 28 at an invitation-only ceremony. For more information, including the winning entry videos, visit www.cronkiteaward.org…

SPECIAL COMMENDATION FOR LOCAL INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM

• Marshall Zelinger and KMGH-TV, Denver, CO, the Scripps-owned ABC affiliate, are recognized for breaking the story of a signature forgery scandal that rocked a U.S. Senate race. His dogged research tracking down voters whose signatures were forged, as well as finding the forgery suspect, triggered an official investigation and eventual policy change. Zelinger, now at KUSA, showed “the impact that journalism can have on politics.”

The discovery of forged signatures in GOP U.S. Senate frontrunner Jon Keyser’s ballot petitions upended the race against incumbent Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, and was the largest single factor ensuring that a qualified candidate did not emerge from the Republican primary. To prove the extensive fraud in Keyser’s petitions was a very tall order for a local news journalist, but Zelinger’s persistence in tracking down the truth–and steely nerve confronting Keyser with the evidence–was a factor that no one was counting on. Not only did Zelinger uncover fraud, he proved over the frantic objections of Keyser’s many defenders that the facts can still trump a favored candidate’s ambition.

In doing so, Zelinger struck a blow for more than just good journalism. It was nothing short of a win for truth, justice, and the American way–and Zelinger’s career deserves the upswing this award is likely to give him.

Congratulations also to 9NEWS’ Brandon Rittiman, honored with a Cronkite of his own for his generally excellent Trust Test series of political fact-checks. For as much as we complain about what’s wrong with local political journalism, here are a couple fine examples of what’s working.

More like them, please.

BREAKING: A Real Life Voter Fraud Conviction!

A press release moments ago from El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Chuck Broerman announces one of the rarest events in American politics, even if it’s one of the most commonly feared: a conviction for actual vote fraud by an actual voter.

The El Paso County Clerk and Recorder’s Office is pleased to announce a conviction has been secured in one of the outstanding voter fraud cases being investigated by the District Attorney’s Office. Toni Newbill pleaded guilty to voting twice under Colorado Revised Statute 1-13-710. The penalty for this crime includes probation, community service, a fine, and other court fees. Ms. Newbill attempted to cast Ralph Nanninga’s ballot in the 2016 Primary Election. Mr. Nanninga passed away in 2012.

“I’d like to thank our District Attorney Dan May and his staff for their great work on this case,” said Clerk and Recorder Chuck Broerman. “Our office takes voter fraud seriously and we’re committed to combating it in every form. We’ll continue to work with various agencies to prevent voter fraud, clean up registration lists, and prosecute those who try to abuse our democratic system.”

To say that Republican elected officials “take voter fraud seriously” is a bit of an understatement, since vote fraud claims formed an outsize component of Republican pre-election messaging in the 2016 elections. It’s true that Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, a Republican himself, pushed back on Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated accusations that the “election is rigged,” but that didn’t stop the rumors from spreading within conservative media. Just as one example, former Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s unfounded claims of “tens of thousands” of illegal voters in Colorado were recycled by national conservative columnist Michelle Malkin with absolutely no regard for truthfulness.

But never mind all that, now we’ve got a real-life voter who has pled guilty to voting twice! Surely that confirms Republicans’ worst fears of rampant voter fraud, right? The answer is no, for two reasons. The first is that this conviction is evidence the system works. The attempt in this case by a Colorado voter to cast two ballots was not successful, because the voter in question, Toni Newbill, was caught.

And the second reason? Toni Newbill is a registered Republican. The election in which she attempted to cast two ballots was the 2016 primary election, in which the marquee contest was the Republican U.S. Senate primary–the same primary that saw frontrunner Jon Keyser’s campaign collapse under allegations of petition fraud, which later resulted in a felony conviction of a Keyser campaign subcontractor.

Far from proving the unsubstantiated claims from President Trump and others that vote fraud is a major problem, this one case against the backdrop of millions of votes legally and properly cast in Colorado proves that there isn’t a problem–at least no problem that merits clamping down on the system, impeding access to the franchise by thousands in order to prevent the exceedingly rare instance of actual lawbreaking.

If that blows a hole in your cherished conspiracy theories, we’re not sorry.

Top Ten Stories of 2016 #2: Jon Keyser’s Stupendously Epic Flameout

Former state Rep. Jon Keyser.

The failure of Colorado Republicans to field a credible challenger to incumbent Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in 2016, as we’ve discussed, was an historic missed opportunity–in what we now know was a much stronger election for Republican candidates across the nation than anyone (other than Vladimir Putin, apparently) could have predicted. Republican U.S. Senate nominee Darryl Glenn finished within six points of Bennet, where he had been expected to lose by double digits, and it is mathematically possible that a better-qualified Republican candidate could have rode that unexpectedly closer margin a few more points to victory.

But it didn’t happen, and the series of events that destroyed the candidate openly favored by the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) in the GOP U.S. Senate primary in May of 2016 may well be the reason why Bennet is still a U.S. Senator. On January 11th, 2016, first-term state Rep. Jon Keyser announced his resignation from the the legislature to focus on running for the U.S. Senate. Keyser, an attorney and a decorated combat veteran, had by this point already impressed kingmakers in Washington, D.C. sufficiently to obtain potentially field-clearing tacit support in a primary field of generally minor candidates.

Keyser made what turned out to be a fateful decision to qualify for the ballot via petition instead of going through the Republican Party’s caucus process, which is how eventual primary victor Darryl Glenn qualified for the ballot in dramatic fashion at the party’s state assembly. But the petition process proved troublesome, not just for Keyser but for three candidates–who ultimately had to sue to get on the ballot, arguing that basic democratic rights trumped technicalities about the signatures and petition gatherers employed by the campaign. In the end, Keyser was on the ballot, and for his powerful supporters that was all that was needed.

That is, until Denver7 investigative reporter Marshall Zelinger started knocking on doors.

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Top Ten Stories of 2016 #6: Dems Grow State House Majority

House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst (D).

Democratic hopes grew throughout the 2016 election season, anticipating major gains at all levels as Donald Trump went down to inglorious defeat and took a large swath of the Republican Party with him.

As you may be aware, that didn’t happen.

In Colorado, the net results of the 2016 elections were, with one notable exception, a preservation of the status quo ante. Democrats carried the state for Hillary Clinton and held Colorado’s U.S. Senate seat–albeit by a much smaller than anticipated margin than expected. Colorado’s congressional delegation remained unchanged despite determined attempts by Democrats to pick up two seats held by the GOP. The Colorado Senate remained in GOP hands by a single seat, just as in 2014.

But in the Colorado House, Democrats picked up several seats–a result that stands out from the general lack of movement elsewhere on the ballot. In particular, House Democrats were successful in flipping tightly competitive seats held by Republicans in nominally Republican areas of the state, like House District 59 in southwest Colorado held by J. Paul Brown and Kit Roupe’s House District 17 in urban Colorado Springs. At the same time, GOP pickup opportunities in the House fizzled despite arguably strong contenders–the best example being Rep.-elect Jeff Bridges’ victory over Katy Brown in outgoing Rep. Daniel Kagan’s House District 3.

The credit for Colorado House Democrats outperforming on this year’s ballot goes to two factors. The first is candidates like Bridges who worked very hard at retail politicking in their district, tirelessly knocking on thousands of doors to earn their seats the old-fashioned way. The second is that Colorado House Democrats have on their side one of the very best “527” independent messaging apparatuses in the nation. With the exception of two years from 2010 to 2012 when Republicans had control of the Colorado House by a single seat, the chamber has been in Democratic hands since Andrew Romanoff led House Democrats to victory in 2004.

The victory of Colorado House Democrats year after year, regardless (and sometimes despite) of what happens up the ticket, is something that everyone who does politics for a living should be studying. They are a model for enduring success in a world without coattails.

What’s Gardner’s Game on Russian Election Hacking?

Cory Gardner, Donald Trump.

As Politico’s Burgess Everett reports, Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, fresh from concern trolling about nonexistent “riots” after Donald Trump’s Electoral College formality yesterday, might be acting out of something like genuine concern over reports of Russian state-sponsored intervention in the 2016 elections.

Or, as readers can decide for themselves, maybe not:

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) told POLITICO he would introduce a bill that, if passed, would mandate a new select Senate committee on cybersecurity. The move could intensify pressure on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who so far has resisted appointing a select committee on cybersecurity. He insists the chamber’s traditional committees, led by the intelligence panel, should handle the issue.

Gardner’s move came a day after GOP Sens. McCain (R-Ariz.) and Graham (R-S.C.), along with incoming Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), called for a special panel in a bipartisan letter to McConnell. It’s unclear, however, how extensive GOP support will be for a select committee, since any Republicans who get behind the proposal will be implicitly siding with the Democratic Senate leader instead of their own…

On the one hand, Gardner is making noise about an issue that, on balance, most Republicans would prefer to let expire on its own as quickly as possible. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is on record opposing Gardner’s proposal for a new cybersecurity committee, and other GOP committee leaders in the Senate are reluctant to cede any of their own power to some new committee.

But there’s a larger problem with Gardner’s bill to create a new cybersecurity committee in the Senate to investigate attacks like the apparent Russian intelligence operation to disrupt the 2016 election in support of Donald Trump.

Is Gardner setting up a way to bury any specific investigation of what happened in 2016?

Gardner, who is close with McConnell, took pains to cast his proposal as far broader than the Russian hacking of U.S. election officials. [Pols emphasis] His hope is to introduce the bill with bipartisan cosponsors early next year.

“From North Korea’s hack of Sony Pictures to Iran’s attack on a New York dam, it’s evident that we are facing a growing cybersecurity challenge. The nature and complexity of recent cyber-attacks require a whole of government approach to cyberspace and the development of federal policy to mitigate the threat and protect everything from personal information to the security of our critical infrastructure,” Gardner said in a statement.

The fact is, we are probably never going to get a “Benghazi Committee” to look into what happened in the 2016 elections out of a Republican-controlled Congress. The difference in the response to this potentially very large scandal and the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya from the Republican-controlled Congress obviously does not make them look good, but it is what it is.

What’s important for Colorado to understand is that Gardner’s committee may do more to obfuscate the truth about this specific incident than to uncover it. It might not, and if an impartial and comprehensive investigation of Russian intervention in the 2016 elections actually happens as a result of something Sen. Gardner does, we’ll be the first to apologize. But Gardner’s vague expressions of concern over Russian hacking during this election have never once mentioned what the intelligence points to above all.

That is, the motive.

Gardner: Don’t Riot Over The Electoral College, You Dirty Hippies

“Quitcherbishin, America.”

Deep in a TV news wire story out of Washington this weekend, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner implores the so-called “Hamilton Electors,” and anybody else who might be considering a vote other than the one they are pledged to cast in today’s usually pro forma official vote of the College to formally elect Donald Trump President of the United States, to knock it off for the good of the nation:

The last-ditch effort to block Trump is exploding online, with a Change.org petition signed by millions and a website listing the addresses of 284 of the electors.

Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) says this isn’t helping to promote a peaceful transition of power.

“Whether or not your person won, the person that you voted for, you shouldn’t be rioting in the street as a result, but working together to unify this country so we can all prosper over the next four years,” Gardner said. [Pols emphasis]

How likely is the Electoral College to snub Trump? Based on the numbers, 38 Republican electors would need to flip their votes to someone else. But, experts say it’s highly unlikely.

Colorado is one of 29 states that bind by law the vote of Electoral College members to the results of the statewide presidential election–a result that obliges all of Colorado’s electors to vote for losing Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Despite this, two Democratic electors have sued to overturn that law citing constitutional freedoms. On Friday the Colorado Supreme Court refused to hear their appeal, and Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams says any “rogue electors” in Colorado would be immediately replaced if they violate the law with a vote other than for Clinton.

With that, the effective drama over the Electoral College vote shifts to other states, and very few if any credible analyses of the situation forecast success in this last-ditch attempt to deny Trump the Oval Office. We’re inclined to think that Sen. Gardner knows there will be no “rioting in the street” over the likely result, any more than there was when the Green Party’s recounts in Rust Belt states fizzled embarrassingly.

And that makes us question how Gardner’s presumptuousness helps, his words, “unify this country.”

Williams Rages So Hard At Rogue Electors, It’s Getting Weird

Secretary of State Wayne Williams (R).

Politico’s Kyle Cheney reports on Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams’ latest broadside against two Colorado members of the Electoral College who have sued, so far unsuccessfully, for what they see as their right to cast a “vote of conscience” in an attempt to deny Donald Trump the presidency.

Williams, who has a reputation as a mild-mannered guy as we noted last week, is really fired up:

Williams told POLITICO in a phone interview that he intends to administer an oath to electors prior to Monday’s official meeting of the Electoral College. Any electors who decide to oppose Clinton won’t just be violating the election law that requires them to support Colorado’s popular vote winner – they’ll be violating their oath as well.

“If Elector A writes down Bernie Sanders or Ted Cruz or anyone other than Hillary Clinton, they immediately cease to be an elector and they’re replaced,” he said. “The difference here is you have perjured yourself.”

“If you swear the oath and then immediately violate it,” he continued, “I think there’s a basis for a more severe criminal penalty.” [Pols emphasis]

So, we’ll start by saying that we agree with the basic premise: the vote in Electoral College for Colorado electors is by law bound to the results of the election. Because Hillary Clinton won the state of Colorado, our state’s electors are legally required to vote for her. It’s not that way in every state, but it is that way in Colorado. Because we’re talking about sworn officials carrying out essential functions of the electoral process, we don’t see this is a free speech issue.

Williams noted that he’s not a prosecutor so he couldn’t say whether electors might be charged with felony perjury – a more serious charge that carries a punishment of up to six years in prison and a $500,000 fine – or misdemeanor perjury, which carries a maximum of 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Here’s where this gets a little strange. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard Williams say he’s “not a prosecutor”–but there’s a marked difference in the Wayne Williams we’re seeing today, haranguing “faithless” electors with perjury threats, and a similar situation Williams faced earlier this year. Back in May, when revelations of petition fraud rocked Jon Keyser’s U.S. Senate campaign–later complicated when it came out that Williams’ office had known about the forged petitions for a month and taken no action–Williams deferred questions about a criminal investigation by noting that he isn’t a prosecutor.

But then Williams went further, affirmatively helping to cover for Keyser by speculating to the press about possible defenses Keyser’s campaign could offer for the forgeries. Williams stated with no evidence, even while asserting he had no power to investigate, that “typically” it’s not the campaign’s fault when they turn in forged petitions.

What’s the difference, you ask, between the Wayne Williams who gave fellow Republican Keyser the endless benefit of the doubt on the record last May, and the Wayne Williams who declared to the media his fervent desire to lock up Democrat Polly Baca?

Never mind, we think we just answered the question.

Wayne Williams, Unlikely GOP Voice of Reason

Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

We’re in the odd position of complimenting Colorado’s Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams once again, as Williams again publicly disputes the unhinged accusations spewing from the Twitter account of the President-elect of the United States Donald Trump–as 9NEWS’ Brandon Rittiman reports:

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams (R) seemed puzzled Monday by President-elect Donald Trump’s false assertion that “millions” of votes were cast illegally in the election earlier this month.

“People don’t always clear every tweet with me,” Williams said of his own party’s leader when asked about the political wisdom of Trump casting doubt on an election he’s already won…

On Sunday afternoon, Trump made the baseless claim on Twitter that he “won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

Williams says elections are not perfect, but said he’s seen no evidence of widespread fraud or mistakes in the American electoral system. [Pols emphasis]

We’ll admit that during Williams’ campaign for election for Secretary of State in 2014, we were not impressed by his rather feeble attempts to mimic his predecessor Scott “Honey Badger” Gessler’s rank partisanship in the then-fashionable trashing of Colorado’s 2013 election reform law. Since his election, however, Williams’ viewpoint on Colorado’s mail ballot system has brightened considerably. And as Trump ramped up his groundless accusations on the campaign trail this year that the “election is rigged,” Williams publicly disputed Trump, and assured the public that the election system both in Colorado and elsewhere was fundamentally sound.

While Williams has equivocated from time to time in an effort to not overly disparage his incoming fellow Republican President, and still fits his pet criticisms of election reform into the discussion where he can, comparing Williams’ relative honesty to the nonsensical field day Gessler would be having with Trump’s baseless allegations if he were still Secretary of State makes Williams look like an elder statesman.

And we’ll admit that is not something we would have predicted in 2014.

The Square Root of Gerrymandering

Good luck finding the "efficiency gap" in current legislative maps.

Finding the “efficiency gap” in the redistricting process could soon get much easier.

Michael Wines of the New York Times has a fascinating look at a new court ruling in Wisconsin that has the potential to dramatically change the process of redistricting/reapportionment across the country.

A panel of three federal judges ruled on Monday that the Wisconsin legislature relied upon unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering when it redrew state legislative districts in 2011.  The case could now move to the Supreme Court, where a new mathematical formula designed to measure partisan gerrymandering could significantly alter the next round of state redistricting/reapportionment in 2021. From the Times:

In Monday’s ruling, the court was swayed by a new and simple mathematical formula to measure the extent of partisan gerrymandering, called the efficiency gap. The formula divides the difference between the two parties’ “wasted votes” — votes beyond those needed by a winning side, and votes cast by a losing side — by the total number of votes cast. [Pols emphasis] When both parties waste the same number of votes, the result is zero — an ideal solution. But as a winning party wastes fewer and fewer votes than its opponent, its score rises.

A truly efficient gerrymander spreads a winning party’s votes so evenly over districts that very few votes are wasted. A review of four decades of state redistricting plans concluded that any party with an efficiency gap of 7 percent or more was likely to keep its majority during the 10 years before new districts were drawn.

In Wisconsin, experts testified, Republicans scored an efficiency gap rating of 11.69 percent to 13 percent in the first election after the maps were redrawn in 2011.

Some experts said the efficiency gap gives gerrymandering opponents their most promising chance yet to persuade a majority of the Supreme Court to limit partisan redistricting. [Pols emphasis]

The once-per-decade redistricting/reapportionment process is often a long, drawn-out (pun intended) process that involves months of legal wrangling from both sides of the political aisle. When it is done particularly poorly, as it was in the infamous 2003 “Midnight Gerrymandering” by Colorado Republicans, it can create deep political wounds that resonate for several election cycles.

We aren’t well-versed enough in election law to definitively say whether or not this “efficiency gap” calculation is the ideal approach for Colorado, but it would certainly be helpful if there were some sort of basic formula that every state could use when it begins the next redistricting/reapportionment process.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (November 10)

Get More SmarterThere are just 726 days until Election Day in 2018. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. 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…

► If you still have a mail ballot at home, go ahead and fold that sucker into a neat paper airplane. Here are some paper airplane templates that may or may not work.

If you want to know what happened to all of those other ballots, the Secretary of State has updated ballot return numbers this morning.

 

► In a move that should come as a surprise to, well, nobody, Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler made it known on Wednesday that he will likely seek the Republican nomination for Governor in 2018. State Treasurer Walker Stapleton is among the Republicans who will also likely run for the big job in Colorado. On the Democratic side, look for names such as Ed PerlmutterKen SalazarCary Kennedy, and state Rep. Michael Johnston. We’ll have a new Big Line for 2018 next week.

 

► The next time you see a photograph of Donald Trump and Paul Ryan together will be the first time. As the Washington Post reports, “Trumpism” and “Ryanism” are on a political collision course:

Donald Trump will lunch with Paul Ryan at 12:30 p.m. at the Capitol Hill Club after he drops by the White House to meet with Barack Obama. The Speaker of the House declared at his post-election press conference yesterday that the president-elect has won “a mandate.” But a mandate for what?

Trump’s victory represents nothing less than a repudiation of Ryan’s brand of Republicanism, both substantively and stylistically. The two have sharply different views of what it means to be a conservative, and they want to take the Republican Party down different paths…

…There are many other issues on which Ryan and Trump disagree, such as eminent domain, but they are somewhat moot because they will not be on the docket in the next four years. As Jonathan Martin puts it in today’s New York Times, “Trump ran as a Republican, but he was effectively a third-party candidate who happened to campaign under the banner of one of the two major parties.”

 

Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)