Inauspicious Start for Colorado SOS Candidate

Jena Griswold, Democratic candidate for Secretary of State

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gah!

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

Trump Vote Fraud Witch Hunt Stopped Cold, For Now

Secretary of State Wayne Williams (R).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pique With Williams Over Voter Data Gets Way Out of Hand

Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good news! July 1-7, 2017

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

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

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

Voting rights roundup

flag with I voted

Image by debaird on flikr

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

Alabama seeks to inform felons of restored voting rights in jail

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

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

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

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

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

Floridians are also petitioning to restore voting rights to felons.

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

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

(more…)

Don’t Want Trump Reading Your Data? There’s An App For That

UPDATE: Denver7’s Blair Miller reports from a press conference today in which Secretary of State Wayne Williams attempted without success to tamp down the controversy:

Uproar about the commission’s request has grown over the weekend and July 4 holiday, as handfuls of secretaries of state—including some Republicans—have publicly stood up to the request, saying it is nothing more than an effort by the administration to suppress voters…

When reporters at the news conference asked about the motives behind the commission, which was established after the president’s claims there were millions of illegal votes cast last year, Williams again stuck to the message that he was following state law and hopeful the commission was true in its statements that the motives behind the commission is to address challenges involving elections.

“Are there some on the commission who have a particular thing they are more concerned about than others? I suspect that’s probably true,” Williams said. “But again, Colorado’s response is based on the requirements of Colorado law and not the assessment of the purity of motives of anybody.”

And he stuck to his message that he’s repeated several times since then-candidate Trump claimed there was widespread voter fraud: “I will tell you all what I have said repeatedly: I have not seen the evidence in Colorado of vote fraud on the scale that has been reference in some reports, tweets, or other things.”

Williams’ response to the bigger question of whether this commission is engaging in a worthwhile investigation or a groundless witch hunt isn’t enough to satisfy those who are concerned he is legitimizing something he went out of his way to debunk last year. We’ve never disputed that this is public information, the availability of which is not itself controversial–it’s about validating the contention that voter fraud is a problem in American elections, a claim for which there is no evidence.

At the same time, we’re hearing a lot of pushback from campaign experts about encouraging voters to make their public data in the voter file confidential as detailed below. The problem with doing that is it removes voters, in this case disproportionately liberal and Democratic voters, from campaign communications of all kinds: which could affect both those voters’ knowledge of election issues and efforts to turn them out to vote. Because this data is readily available to anyone from many sources other than the Colorado Secretary of State, the small satisfaction of “denying” it to the Kobach commission is outweighed by the harm from taking one’s self out of the loop. As for the legality of using the program that allows for that just to spite Trump, be advised:

Williams also discussed the state’s confidential voter program, called the Address Confidentiality Program, which allows certain people—mainly domestic violence victims or stalking—to sign a document saying their information shouldn’t be released because doing so would be a risk to their safety. Lying on the document would make a person subject to perjury charges. Some law enforcement officers may be covered under certain circumstances, especially those working undercover.

“Colorado’s confidential voter program is based through the law, not a fiat from the secretary of state or something else,” Williams said. “It’s based on attestation from the individual, under oath, that they meet one of the criteria.”

Wouldn’t it be better if we could just not humor Donald Trump’s fantasies to begin with? Original post follows.

—–

Secretary of State Wayne Williams (R).

An application, that is, as the Colorado Independent’s Corey Hutchins follows up on last week’s controversy regarding GOP Secretary of State Wayne Williams’ decision to cooperate with the Trump administration’s widely-criticized commission “investigating” the issue of vote fraud in American elections:

Williams has not pulled Colorado’s voter files yet as of July 3, according to his office. He has a July 14 deadline.

If you’re a voter in Colorado, you should know what’s already publicly available. It’s your address, the year of your birth, which party you belong to or whether you’re unaffiliated, and when and where you voted in past elections and what those elections were. (Obviously who you voted for is secret.) That’s what Williams will turn over to Trump’s voter fraud task force, which is vice-chaired by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

In Colorado, you can can keep this information confidential if you’re worried about your safety. And if you do it before Colorado pulls the voter file, Trump’s federal commission won’t get your info, according to the secretary of state’s office.

The process, laid out in state law, is set up so voters who have safety concerns about their information being public can have their personal information suppressed. It’s called a request of confidentiality, and you can make one in person with your county clerk by filling out a form and paying a nominal fee.

Again, we want to be clear that the data Williams intends to turn over to the Kobach commission is already public and not difficult to obtain by any interested party. Some states have somewhat tighter restrictions on the public release of voter data, but nothing being turned over to this commission poses any greater identity theft or other personal risk to individual voters than the vast trove of information already publicly known and traded about you. Like most states, Williams is not handing over things like whole birth dates or the last four digits of voters’ Social Security numbers, which could reasonably be considered personal security risks.

So what’s the problem, you ask? Simple: it’s the fact that Secretary of State Wayne Williams is cooperating with this commission at all. Williams, who last year commendably helped debunk Donald Trump’s unfounded claims of impending election fraud to deny him the presidency, should be at the front of the long line of secretaries of state from both parties who have called this whole effort out as a waste of time and resources. Instead, his public statements about this commission have been completely devoid of criticism, in marked contrast to most of his peers. Numerous “investigations” laden with our previous secretary of state’s blatant confirmation bias in Colorado have proven that this is a problem that exists only in the heads of Republican politicians who want to shore up their electoral margins.

So yes, folks, if you don’t want to be a part of it, you can go to your county clerk and fill out a form to make your voter history confidential! It’s a provision meant to protect the safety of public figures and crime victims, but also anybody else worried about harassment or their safety if this data isn’t kept confidential–and that seems to be up to you to determine. We’re not advocating people take this step necessarily, but Williams’ actions have made it timely to note for the record.

As an added bonus, you’ll apparently get a lot less political mail during election season!

Don’t tell the clerk that’s why you’re doing it.

Get More Smarter on Friday (June 30)

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

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

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

As Denver7 reports:

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

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:

bartelselection

The Denver Post’s John Frank adds:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

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

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

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

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

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

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

(more…)

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:

votefraudheadlines

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!

williamscoloradoday

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.