In the 24 hours since petitions were submitted in support of Initiative 76, a constitutional amendment to duplicatively restate that voting rights in Colorado are restricted to U.S. citizens only–which the constitution already prescribes and is already followed in practice throughout the state with zero exceptions we are aware of–proponents have faced a barrage of questions from reporters, trying to figure out what the point of the measure is beyond the superficial objective of turning out a particular segment of low-information, high-prejudice voters.
The answers? Mostly crazy stuff, with a wink and nod to the desperate realpolitik. Colorado Public Radio:
The Colorado effort has collected more than 200,000 signatures ahead of a Tuesday deadline, likely ensuring they’ll have more than enough ruled valid to qualify for the election, according to Joe Stengel, registered agent for the initiative…
Stengel claimed, without providing any evidence, that noncitizens already are voting in Colorado, despite the existing laws.
“They are voting now, and I think that they’ll probably continue to vote if we don’t ensure the integrity of our elections,” he said. He could not point to any specific examples, he said.
Stengel, who served as minority leader in the Colorado House before leaving office in 2006, denied that the effort has anything to do with politics.
“It’s a non-partisan issue,” he said. “Democrats, Republicans, independents should all be concerned about voter integrity. Opponents can say whatever they want, but who would not be in favor of voter integrity?”
“This is a great opportunity so that we can get in front of the voters first hand,” said Rep. Patrick Neville (R – District 45), the House Minority Leader. “They are going to get a chance to vote on it.” [Pols emphasis]
“In my mind, this simply clears up some ambiguous language,” Neville said during a press conference late Tuesday morning, “and ensures we take the first steps to ensure we have election integrity in the state of Colorado.”
We’ll start with the most important point, which is there is absolutely no evidence to support the claim that noncitizens are voting in Colorado elections. Repeated false claims of this kind from former Secretary of State Scott Gessler during his term from 2011-14 fell apart under scrutiny, and it became obvious that Gessler and friends were intentionally omitting the naturalization of new citizens in the state–which completely accounts for these alleged instances of “noncitizen voters” with room to spare.
It’s been necessary for us to revisit this question over and over as the false claims get recycled to new audiences. And every time, whether it’s Gessler or Donald Trump making the allegation, it has always turned out the same way.
Once you get past the easily disproven claims of “noncitizens voting,” proponents seem to acknowledge that Initiative 76 is nothing more than a get-out-the-vote vehicle for beat-down Colorado Republicans in the 2020 elections. Along with the ballot measure to overturn the legislature’s passage of the National Popular Vote Compact, these measures are unapologetically described (at least in private) as a way of giving demoralized Colorado Republicans demotivated by the top of the ticket and the near-inevitability of another impending defeat in our state some reason to return their ballot.
Bottom line: Initiative 76 almost surgically targets a segment of the electorate that Republicans need desperately to vote, namely conservatives in possession of more rage than facts. That’s its entire reason for existence. Like so many other storylines in today’s politics, when the pitch man tells you you’re being too cynical…the reality is that you’re not being cynical enough.