In the last 48 hours there’s been a considerable amount of concern raised by a report from freelance investigative journalist Greg Palast, who has spent many years gumshoeing election processes throughout the 50 states–sometimes finding significant examples of vote suppression on the part of Republican Secretaries of State, Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004 being two prominent presidential-election examples of Palast’s work.
This time, however, as 9NEWS reported last night in detail, Palast got a little over his proverbial skis–and let a few misunderstandings about Colorado’s highly accessible election system, in which voters can take part several different ways including Election Day registration, lead to an unnecessary alarmist conclusion:
Greg Palast, an independent journalist who has written for Rolling Stone and other publications, wrote on his website Friday that Colorado is one of several states purging voters from its rolls. Per his report, more than 769,000 registrations were wiped from state records. He made similar claims against other states, like Georgia and Illinois, as well.
Voter registrations in Colorado may be canceled for several reasons including an out-of-state move, a felony conviction or death. Your voter registration could also be canceled if you chose not to vote in recent elections and didn’t respond to inquiries from your county clerk after…[o]ther votes are considered inactive but have not have their registrations canceled.
“What that means is that we have sent them a ballot or mail in the past and that mail has bounced. So, in all likelihood, those voters no longer live here in Colorado. But if they do, they still haven’t been purged, they’re just inactive, and they can reactivate by going to the polls and voting or getting online and changing their voter registration,” Staiert said.
The key thing to understand here is that unlike most other states, in Colorado being “inactivated” for the purposes of being mailed a ballot is in no way a final barrier to voting in any election. Colorado is subscribed to the National Change of Address database (NCOALink), which securely accesses USPS change of address data to keep voting records up to date. In addition, voters for whom election mail is returned are correctly inactivated so that mail ballots aren’t just going out willy-nilly. The large number of registrations affected simply reflects better tracking of these routine changes, not any conspiracy to suppress the vote.
And the bottom line is Colorado’s model election system, which features some of the highest turnouts of any American election since the passage of mail ballots and same-day registration in 2013, wouldn’t work to suppress the vote anyway–since any voter can update their status with one click to the Secretary of State’s website and a few updates to their information. If they do that before October 29, they’ll still get a mail ballot. If a voter misses that deadline, they can fix their registration or even register and vote all the way up to Election Day. To compare our system to so many other states where the rules are indeed set up to purge voters with convoluted recourse or none at all simply reflects a lack of understanding. And if you don’t want to take Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams’ word for that, which we understand given some of his wacky past statements, here’s his Democratic opponent Jena Griswold:
Williams’ Democratic challenger Jena Griswold issued a statement Monday saying she does not find the claims to be factual.
“The reports on voter purges in Colorado are not true. We need more facts, and less scare tactics in our politics,” she said. [Pols emphasis]
That is the best advice we can give anyone. In this case, we do think the misunderstanding was well-intentioned–and if anything should result in more voters taking the literal thirty seconds required to verify their voter record is up to date before it ever becomes an impediment to their casting a ballot. Even after the mail ballot deadline, no eligible voter in Colorado is truly out of options until the polls close on Election Night.
That’s why Colorado’s voter participation leads the nation–and will again in 2018.