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.

“Keyser’s Law”–Petition Signature Check Heads To Governor

AP reporting on the unanimous final passage of House Bill 17-1088, legislation to require the Colorado Secretary of State’s office to apply the same standards for checking signatures on candidate petitions as is already done for ballot measure petitions and mail ballots:

Colorado is tightening requirements for the petitions gathered by would-be political candidates.

A bill that passed the Senate 34-0 Friday sets a signature-verification procedure for those ballots. It says the state has to check signatures against an existing voter database, instead of just verifying names and addresses.

The upgrade was inspired by last year’s Senate primary, when forged signatures were found on some petitions from a Republican seeking to get on the GOP primary ballot.

The implosion of Jon Keyser’s U.S. Senate campaign almost one year ago today was the result of several factors: the failure of Keyser’s campaign and petition contractors to stop their lawbreaking employee, the failure of the Colorado Secretary of State’s office to catch submitted forgeries despite being warned by their own employees during the signature count–and above all, Keyser’s personal arrogance responding to journalists asking basic questions about what had happened.

It came as a shock to most outside observers last year when the Secretary of State claimed they could not investigate forged petition signatures, since the authority to check them against the voter file signature record was not explicit in the law. It’s arguable that if the forged petitions in Keyser’s petitions had been caught at any point before a liberal activist group exposed them in a press conference, Keyser might have been able to recover politically from the incident before the U.S. Senate primary.

This bill will provide an important check to help the next Jon Keyser save himself…from himself.

Caption This Photo: Omigosh It’s Wayne Williams!

UPDATE: Let’s get the most obvious Photoshopping out of the way:

“Imma let you finish, Cory.”


An incredibly captionable moment of levity with Colorado’s always-in-demand Sen. Cory Gardner captured at last night’s Lincoln Day Dinner by Lynn Bartels, spokesperson for Secretary of State Wayne Williams. Also note the not-so-subtle plug for a potential Williams bid for Governor.

But above all, don’t sneak up on Sen. Gardner like that! What if you were…a constituent?!

Make it rain, gentle readers.

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.

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:


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.

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.


Dead Voters? Oh My! Oh, Wait.

Young-voter-via-ShutterstockLate last month, CBS4 Denver’s Brian Maass ran a story that’s been stirring a great deal of alarm among the right wing’s perennial “vote fraud” conspiracy theorists–a report that identified a handful of cases, in which voters in Colorado who were deceased had votes cast in their name:

A CBS4 investigation has found multiple cases of dead men and women voting in Colorado months and in some cases years after their deaths, a revelation that calls into question safeguards designed to prevent such occurrences…

The cases of dead men and women casting ballots ranged from El Paso County in southern Colorado to Denver and Jefferson County. CBS4 discovered the fraudulent voting by comparing databases of voting histories in Colorado against a federal death database.

The CBS4 investigation has triggered criminal investigations in El Paso and Jefferson counties along with a broad investigation by the Colorado Secretary of State’s office.

“It’s not a perfect system. There are some gaps,” acknowledged Williams.

The story’s lede used the word “multiple” to describe the number of cases of dead voters casting ballots, though the original story described four such cases–and none newer than 2013. One of those cases was later explained by a clerical error. Last night, a followup report from Maass announced with great fanfare the discovery of one additional case:

An ongoing CBS4 Investigation into dead voters in Colorado has turned up another dead voter — this time in Larimer County.

“I don’t think it was an accident,” said Larimer County Clerk and Recorder Angela Myers, who acknowledged she found the most recent dead voter after the initial CBS4 Investigation entitled “Dying To Vote,” which aired last month. That initial investigation found a handful of votes cast in the names of dead Coloradans months, and sometimes years, after they died.

Myers said following that report, the Secretary of State sent her a list of deceased voters to double check.

“We did find a single deceased voter,” she said, “and unfortunately it was counted.”

That brings the total number of “dead voters” discovered in Colorado to either four or five depending on whether you count the original report that turned out to be incorrect. That means several weeks of heightened scrutiny of voter registrations after the first CBS4 report resulted in only one additional case of a dead person “voting.”

On October 1st, Colorado had 3,756,564 registered voters.

To be sure, there is no responsible argument that these four or five cases of probable vote fraud should be ignored–not even literal one-in-a-million cases as these appear to be. Vote fraud is a crime, and especially in a mail ballot election system like Colorado’s it’s important  that any violators be swiftly prosecuted to the limit of the law. That is being done right now with these cases, as clerks work through the information they’ve been given and refer findings to prosecutors.

But never mind all that boring factual stuff, folks! The conservative media has its own version:


Brian Maass and CBS4 deserve some criticism for the ridiculous hyperbole flooding the conservative media today based on his report of four or five “dead voters” among nearly four million registered voters in Colorado. Maass’ reporting intentionally downplayed the actual number of cases, using words like “multiple” when “several” or even the correct single-digit number would have been more accurate–if less sensational. But the bigger problem is with the conservative media outlets completely untethered by a need for accuracy who distorted Maass’ report into something vastly worse than the facts support.

Williams said measures implemented in 2015 should reduce the number of dead voters casting ballots in Colorado, [Pols emphasis] but he noted that the CBS4 investigation indicates further measures might be necessary.

Yes, any improperly cast vote is a problem. But as you can see from the actual numbers described here, a draconian solution like what the right wing desires to “combat vote fraud” would disenfranchise far more perfectly legitimate voters than the totality of this problem. That’s a great approach if your goal is to reduce the number of people who vote, but not so much for ensuring fair and accessible elections.

The moral of the story? Don’t believe the hype. Or the hyping of the hype.

Happy Colorado Day! Wait, What?

Today is the 140th anniversary of statehood for our great state of Colorado, which officially joined the Union on August 1, 1876. We know that 2026 will be our state’s sesquicentennial celebration, which will be a bigger deal, but 140 is still pretty cool.

Unfortunately, Colorado’s Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams, who is in charge of (among other things) counting the votes in our elections, is having a little arithmetic trouble as he commemorates the state of Colorado’s birthday today!


Don’t ask us. 2016-1876=140. The math here ought to be simple enough.

We know, we know! The other two years had petition problems (bah-dum-tish).

The jokes write themselves, folks. Give us some better ones.

Get More Smarter on Monday (June 6)

Get More SmarterToday is the 72nd Anniversary of D-Day; kids, ask your parents or the History Channel. 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.


► The ballots are coming! The ballots are coming! Registered Democrats and Republicans should start receiving mail ballots this week in advance of the June 28th Primary election. For more information on checking your registration or address status, or if you just like reading about elections, visit


► California, here we come! On Tuesday, six states will cast votes (or do the caucus thing) in the Presidential race, but none more important than delegate-rich California. As Politico reports, Bernie Sanders is making his last stand in his fight to overtake Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, even if he isn’t willing to admit as much:

Barring a set of unprecedented upsets on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton is expected to be declared the presumptive Democratic nominee. And when the television networks make that call as soon as New Jersey polls close on June 7, it will leave Bernie Sanders with a hard choice: whether to directly acknowledge it or intensify his fight to the July convention in Philadelphia…

…A win in California, his top advisers believe, will enable Sanders to make a much more aggressive pitch to superdelegates and Democrats around the country in the coming weeks. He will be able to point to victories over Clinton in more than 20 states — capped by the biggest, bluest and most diverse in the nation. The symbolic value of winning California, they think, would underscore his point that the future of the party is on his side and rattle superdelegate confidence in her candidacy.

A loss, however, would dismantle that argument. The Sanders camp believes a defeat there would take the wind out of his sails, in no small part because of the negative media narrative that would result after having spent so much time in the state.

In addition to California and New Jersey, voters will pick favorites in Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota (Democrats only) and South Dakota.


► With ballots on their way, things are really starting to heat up in the race for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination. The Denver Post is profiling each of the 5 Republican candidates this week, starting with today’s piece on Robert Blaha. There are two high-profile GOP debates this week: Tuesday evening on 9News, and Wednesday evening in Colorado Springs hosted by the Gazette newspaper.

Also today, Ryan Frazier debuts his zombie-themed TV ad, which Colorado Statesman reporter Ernest Luning reports includes a $100k buyJack Graham has added another $250k to his TV buy, raising the total to about $700k. Blaha has been on TV with an ad buy that his campaign will not disclose, and even Darryl Glenn could be getting his mug on the idiot box pretty soon.

The editorial board of the Denver Post isn’t particularly happy about Jon Keyser’s TV ad, which has been widely panned by media outlets for its blatant lies. As the Post explains in its editorial diss:

But it’s one thing to contend the agreement plays into Iran’s hands and quite another to flatly insist the senator wants to arm the repressive Islamic regime with weapons of mass destruction. Bennet no more wants to see that than Keyser. The claim is not only offensive, it’s preposterous. And Keyser doesn’t have license to throw wild accusations around regarding Iran because he did the noble work of fighting its proxies. [Pols emphasis]

If you haven’t seen the ad yourself, it’s not because you haven’t been watching enough TV; you’d have a hard time catching it since the Keyser campaign only submitted a $5,000 ad buy (which gets him about 49 total spots). According to Luning at the Statesman, however, Keyser’s campaign has spent an additional $100k to extend this already horrible TV spot. If politics were poker, Keyser just went all-in with a deuce and a nine.


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

Sucks To Be Wayne Williams

UPDATE: The Denver Post’s John Frank:

“In retrospect we could have done a better job on the review of the individual lines and I think we all admit that,” said Judd Choate, the elections director in the secretary of state’s office. “And that’s why we are trying to develop better policies.”

At the same time, state election officials acknowledged that the scope of the controversy involving forged signatures is still unknown. The secretary of state’s office has not yet conducted a review of other petitions submitted by the same collector who submitted the questionable signatures for Keyser. [Pols emphasis]

“We haven’t looked at it,” Choate said.

“We haven’t looked at it.” That’s encouraging. Maybe the Secretary of State’s office can get around to doing their job later this summer.


Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

The office of Colorado’s Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams held a press conference today, to respond to this week’s shocking update in the ongoing scandal over forged petition signatures submitted on behalf of Senate candidate Jon Keyser: the revelation that Williams’ office was made aware of a deceased voter who had “signed” Keyser’s petition over a month ago, weeks before a local liberal group exposed the initial forgeries on May 3. As the Aurora Sentinel’s Chris Harrop reports:

Judd Choate, state election director in the Secretary of State’s office, addressed an array of questions Thursday, May 19, over the petition process after U.S. Senate candidate Jon Keyer’s campaign became embroiled in a controversy over forged signatures discovered on his petitions.

One signature in particular — that of Judy DeSantis, who died in January — was found on Keyser’s petition, dated March 28. An elections worker was notified of the anomaly in April, but the issue was not brought to the attention of Secretary of State Wayne Williams until Tuesday, May 17.

“Under state law we are permitted to evaluate the content of a signature … we are not permitted under state law to compare signatures,” Choate told reporters, explaining that the reporting procedures at the time did not call for checking the date of the signature against the date of the voter’s death.

“We would have no reason to believe they have done anything wrong here,” Choate said, later adding that “the assumption was that they had died after signing the petition.”

liarliarkeyserReaders will be pleased to learn that the Secretary of State’s office is moving to correct this rather stupefying gap in their signature verification process for petitions. Again, what we’re talking about is routine verification of a voters’ identity and valid signature that already occurs with actual ballots–just not with petition signatures. We know exactly what needs to be done to catch fraud like the forgeries in Keyser’s petitions, it simply wasn’t done due to the “cost and effort” involved. And because, well, the law didn’t say the Secretary of State had to.

From there, things got a bit more defensive:

As to the larger issue of signature verification, Choate said that his office is prohibited by law from taking that step while some county elections officials — such as those in Denver — have implemented signature verification under their county charters.

“It would require a change in law, we would need a statutory change … we have very, very limited authority to pursue someone for a violation like this,” Choate said.

Secretary of State spokeswoman Lynn Bartels added that the office does not have criminal prosecutorial authority. The forgery complaints to date have been referred to the Denver and Jefferson County district attorneys, respectively.

The problem is, the Secretary of State’s office is not who referred the overwhelming majority of evidence to prosecutors–a “liberal attack group” did that. The only item “referred” to investigators by Williams’ office to our knowledge was the deceased voter they reportedly knew about for a month, and we seriously doubt we would have ever heard about that were it not for the larger scandal. Excepting that action the Secretary of State’s office has mostly outright defended Jon Keyser, making assumptions about the case that investigators have in no way determined, and reaffirming with a shrug that Keyser is “on the ballot” regardless of any evidence of fraud that has been or might be uncovered.

In short, Williams has done very little to help resolve this situation, and a great deal to make it worse. He made it worse though his own ill-advised defense of Keyser, coupled with the belated admission his office failed: not just to catch these forgeries, but to heed warnings about forgeries and even dead voters coming from their own workers looking at Keyser’s petitions. And we can’t help but wonder what else may be out there we don’t yet know.

Everyone needs to do better next time, starting with the Secretary of State.

Now There are DEAD VOTERS on Jon Keyser’s Petitions

UPDATE: The Colorado Independent’s Corey Hutchins:

File this one under “One thing a Republican candidate never wants to see”: A dead voter’s signature on a petition to get him on the ballot.

But that’s the allegation from Colorado’s Republican Secretary of State, Wayne Williams, who today released a statement saying he “notified the Denver district attorney that a petition circulator turned in the signature of a deceased voter.”

In recent years, Republicans across the country have over-hyped inaccurate reports of “zombie voters,” fear mongering about in-person voter fraud, which is extremely rare. They’ve done this while trying to enact restrictive voting measures to make voting more difficult…

In 2013, Keyser himself got into the voter fraud fray when he suggested he had improperly received duplicate ballots in the mail. It turned out that wasn’t the case.


Jon Keyser supporters this afternoon.

Is it still getting worse?!? Yes, it’s still getting worse.

As the Denver Post explains:

Colorado’s Secretary of State’s Office first learned about the possibility of fraudulent signatures — including a dead voter — on U.S. Senate candidate Jon Keyser’s petitions in April but did not refer the matter to investigators.

The revelation — made clear in documents obtained Tuesday by The Denver Post — adds a new layer of culpability to the controversy surrounding the Republican primary and raises additional questions about how Keyser qualified for the ballot.

The suspect voter signatures that appeared on the former state lawmaker’s petitions included one dead person and an unknown number that appeared to have been written in identical handwriting — potentially more than previously known.

A data specialist at Integrated Document Solutions — the state division that first reviews the petitions — contacted Jeff Mustin, Secretary of State’s petition lead, on April 12, the documents show, and sent a subsequent e-mail that included the suspicious signatures.


Jon Keyser’s campaign had been getting absolutely pummeled in the media over allegations of ballot fraud and forgery in petitions used to get his name on the June 28th Primary ballot. On Monday, Keyser decided to finally speak out — albeit in a rather nonsensical manner — but not before his Senate campaign had become little more than an Internet meme.

And now…dead voters. We didn’t think it possible for this story to get much worse than it already was for Keyser’s campaign, but (credit where due, here), it seems Keyser has a special kind of magic for this sort of thing. Bravo, or, whatever.

Here’s What’s Happening in the Republican Ballot Access Fight

UPDATE: Surprise! Another change:


If you’ve been following efforts to finalize the ballot for the GOP U.S. Senate race, you are well aware of the Furious Outhouse Fire that has come to symbolize the entire process (we can’t even call it a “Dumpster Fire” anymore – we’re well beyond that particular metaphor).

We’ve been trying to keep you updated on everything that is happening, as much as it is possible to do such a thing as quickly as the news keeps changing, and here’s where things stand as of this writing. Please note that things can – and almost certainly will – change again soon, and we will update this post as changes occur. For the sake of sanity and to help clarify things, we’re breaking this up into the latest events for the different campaigns and public officials involved.

One other quick note: Supporters of Robert Blaha, Ryan Frazier, and Jon Keyser like to portray themselves as the victims here (Keyser himself publicly blamed “bureaucrats” in the SOS office for his initial ballot troubles), but this entire fiasco was avoidable. Republican candidate Jack Graham was the first Senate candidate to be certified for the Primary ballot via the petition process, in large part because GRAHAM DID IT RIGHT. The general rule of thumb in collecting petitions is to turn in double the amount required in order to compensate for any potential errors, and that’s what Graham did; he submitted more than 22,000 signatures, while Blaha, Frazier, and Keyser were in the 16,000-17,000 range (candidates for U.S. Senate must collect 1,500 valid signatures from registered Republicans in each of Colorado’s seven congressional districts, for a total of 10,500). Graham did what he needed to do and hired consultants that could get it done. Blaha, by contrast, hired Frank McNulty, while Keyser was struggling to raise enough money just to keep his campaign in operation.


Colorado Secretary of State/Primary Ballots

The Primary ballot was supposed to be finalized by the Secretary of State’s (SOS) office on Friday, April 29. That didn’t happen, obviously, because the campaigns of Robert Blaha and Ryan Frazier filed a motion to prevent the SOS from doing so; that stay was granted, but ended Wednesday evening.

Today, a Denver judge issued another stay in response to a request from Frazier’s campaign; Frazier has until Monday, May 9 to file an appeal of a court ruling that he is not eligible for the Primary ballot. Secretary of State Wayne Williams plans to challenge this ruling because more deadlines are rapidly approaching: The “stay” order has been rescinded by the court in light of a new deal with Frazier.

♦ May 14 is the deadline for county clerks to transmit a Primary Election ballot to military and overseas voters (45 days before June 28th Primary).

♦ May 27 is the deadline for Primary Ballots to be “printed and in possession of the county clerk (no later than 32 days before the Primary Election)

♦ June 6 is the first day that mail ballots can be mailed to voters (not sooner than 22 days before the Primary Election).

Here’s the election calendar prepared by the Colorado SOS.


Robert Blaha.

Robert Blaha

Robert Blaha
Ballot Status: ON

In the span of about 18 hours, Blaha learned that he was on the Primary ballot, off the Primary ballot, and as of this morning, back on the Primary ballot. Blaha has also called for SOS Wayne Williams to resign in the wake of the massive confusion that took place during the past couple of weeks. There is no update as to whether Blaha will proceed with this line of attack on Williams now that he is (probably) on the ballot.




Ryan Frazier

Ryan Frazier

Ryan Frazier
Ballot Status: OFF ON, pending appeal

Frazier appears to have the most tenuous position at the moment, in large part because he was the last of the four Senate candidates to submit his petitions for ballot access (click here for a detailed explanation of why this is important). Frazier is being represented in court by former SOS Scott Gessler, who will challenge a court ruling that Frazier is ineligible for the ballot. On Thursday, a judge ruled that Frazier still doesn’t have enough valid petition signatures in CD-3. Later in the day, a ruling came down that Frazier CAN be on the Primary ballot, but that he must withdraw from the Senate race if he loses his appeal.




Jon Keyser

Jon Keyser

John Keyser
Ballot Status: ON (for now)

Keyser has a court order forcing the SOS to place his name on the Primary ballot, and that’s unlikely to change. However…of the three Republicans who have been trying to get onto the ballot in the last few weeks, Keyser also has the biggest cloud hanging over his head. Keyser’s petitions included at least one, and possibly more, examples of blatant forgery and fraud in the collecting of signatures. Keyser also barely collected enough signatures from CD-1 to qualify for the ballot – he made it with just 20 signatures to spare – so more examples of forgery or fraud could put him back under the required amount of signatures for ballot access.

It’s unlikely that Keyser’s name would be removed from the ballot before Monday, but he could still end up as a “Zombie Candidate” if a judge later rules that votes for Keyser cannot be counted because he should never have been eligible for the ballot in the first place. There is some precedent here; in 2012, Michigan Rep. Thaddeus McCotter failed to qualify for the GOP Primary ballot because of questions about forged signatures. Fallout from that scandal ultimately forced McCotter to resign from Congress in July 2012.

BREAKING: Apparent Fraud Uncovered in U.S. Senate Race

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

POLS UPDATE #4: The Denver Post’s John Frank:

The signature of one voter, Pam Niemczyk of Littleton, raised particular questions because it appeared on two petitions in different handwriting.

Niemczyk said she remembers signing a petition for Graham outside a local grocery store but not Keyser.

“I have seen my signature for Jack Graham and I have seen my signature for Jon Keyser and I can definitely say the one for Jon Keyser is not my signature,” she said in an interview. “It’s forged.” [Pols emphasis]


POLS UPDATE #3: Coincidentally, a former candidate for Denver city council was just sentenced today by the Denver District Attorney’s office for falsifying signatures on a petition for ballot access.


POLS UPDATE #2: Marshall Zelinger at 7NEWS reports, bad news for Jon Keyser:

Pamela Niemczyk of Littleton told Denver7’s Marshall Zelinger on Tuesday that she had signed a petition for Jack Graham, another Republican U.S. Senate candidate. She said the signature on the Keyser petition was not hers, calling it a “fraud.” [Pols emphasis]

…The Keyser campaign issued a statement blasting U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, the Democratic incumbent whom he and other Republican candidates are vying to challenge in the November general election.

“Senator Michael Bennet’s liberal friends, ProgressNow Colorado, embarrassed his campaign yet again today with a flailing stunt that clearly telegraphs to the entire political world how scared Michael Bennet is to face Jon Keyser in November,” Keyser spokesman Matt Connelly said in the statement. “…The entire political world knows Jon Keyser will be on the ballot and we appreciate Progress Now’s invitation to highlight for conservatives across the country that Jon Keyser is Senator Bennet’s worst nightmare.”

Whether or not it was political stunt, Denver7 confirmed that the Littleton voter said someone forged her signature on the Keyser petition.


POLS UPDATE: This could be about to get very serious for Jon Keyser, as 7NEWS’ Marshall Zelinger confirms apparent fraud in Keyser’s submitted petitions:

Watch this space for updates, uh-oh…


With time running out on a temporary injunction against the finalization of the 2016 Republican U.S. Senate primary ballot, ProgressNow Colorado, the state’s largest online progressive advocacy organization, called on the Colorado Secretary of State’s office to re-examine petition signatures submitted in the U.S. Senate race. This request comes after a cursory investigation of the Secretary of State’s own data revealed several invalid petition signatures that evidently slipped through the cracks, and at least one wrongly accepted duplicate signature that appears to be fraudulent.

“Our review of just a sample of Jon Keyser’s petitions in one congressional district has found enough uncaught invalid signatures to raise serious questions about whether Jon Keyser has in fact qualified for the Republican primary ballot,” said ProgressNow Colorado political director Alan Franklin. “The Secretary of State must immediately rescind their statement of sufficiency for Jon Keyser, and request an extension of the temporary injunction now in place to revisit errors and potential fraud in the signature validation process. ‘Close enough’ isn’t good enough for Colorado voters.”

After petition documents were made available for inspection by the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, a cursory review of Jon Keyser’s signatures in one congressional district found at least six invalid duplicate signatures that were not discarded in the Secretary of State’s signature validation process. The signatories appear in the accepted signature reports for both U.S. Senate candidates Jack Graham and Jon Keyser. Based on Keyser’s total validated petition signatures in one congressional district (CD-1), fourteen additional invalid signatures would put Keyser below the minimum number required to appear on the 2016 ballot.

At least one duplicate signature accepted for Keyser, a voter whose signature was also accepted for Jack Graham, appears to be fraudulent. A visual inspection of the signatures plainly shows the same name filled out in different handwriting. [1]

“Our brief look at the petitions for Jon Keyser has raised serious questions, and after he barely qualified for the ballot, every single signature matters,” said Franklin. “Our sample of petition signatures has revealed previously uncaught errors, as well as a potential for outright fraud, that could change everything in this race. Unless the Secretary of State takes the time to re-verify every petition signature, no one can have confidence in the Republican U.S. Senate primary ballot.”

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (May 3)

Get More SmarterEnjoy your day in the sun, Indiana. 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).


► Attorneys for Republican Senate candidates Robert Blaha and Ryan Frazier are in a Denver courtroom today arguing that their clients should be placed on the June 28th Primary ballot even though they failed to meet the criteria for submitting valid petition signatures to the Secretary of State’s office. Both Blaha and Frazier want more time to figure out how to bend the rules like Jon Keyser did last week (Keyser, you’ll recall, also failed to make the ballot until he got his attorneys involved).

Meanwhile, Keyser was a guest on KOA radio Monday afternoon, where he proceeded to bash the “bureaucrats” at the Secretary of State’s office.


► Republican Presidential candidate Ted Cruz is in full-out panic mode as voters head to the polls in Indiana today. From the Washington Post:

Cruz came to Indiana to try to resuscitate his flagging campaign at a pivotal moment in the Republican presidential race. But with just one day of campaigning left until Tuesday’s vote — and after a series of desperation measures — the freshman senator from Texas is on the verge of a defeat that would ravage his campaign and raise new questions about whether his mission to stop the mogul has become futile.

An NBC News-Wall Street Journal-Marist poll released Sunday showed Trump leading Cruz by 15 points in Indiana. Other recent public polls have shown Trump leading by narrower margins.

Supporters hoped that Indiana, which has similarities to other Midwestern states Cruz has won, would be able to heal the deep wounds left by Cruz’s blowout losses in six straight states. But it has been very difficult for Cruz to gain traction in the face of relentless attacks from Trump and hiccups in his own effort.

It may not be fair to say that Cruz is cracking…he’s cracked. This morning he went on a diatribe about GOP frontrunner Donald Trump, calling him a “narcissist” and a “philanderer,” among other names.


Get even more smarter after the jump…