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October 05, 2011 06:14 PM UTC

MSNBC's Maddow Devastates Gessler's "Inactive Voter" Lawsuit

  • by: Colorado Pols

UPDATE #2: FOX 31’s Eli Stokols reports that Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert Ortiz has asked to join the Denver lawsuit as well, as a defendant, to “defend military voters.”

Ortiz, who reluctantly complied with Gessler’s order last week not to mail ballots to inactive voters who are members of the military deployed overseas, but stated he was considering taking legal action.

On Wednesday, he followed through on that promise, joining Denver as a defendant in a lawsuit that’s receiving national attention.

Calling Gessler’s stance “an overly restrictive interpretation of state law,” Ortiz announced that he has filed a motion to join Denver Clerk Debra Johnson as a defendant in the lawsuit.

“I believe that these military voters need to be defended in this court ruling,” Ortiz said. “Pueblo County voters who are on active duty overseas and are inactive have not received their ballots for the Nov. 1 election because of Secretary of State Gessler’s order,” Ortiz continued.

Gessler fired back.

“Ortiz is clearly fanning the political flames and covering up his own problems,” Gessler said in a statement. “His personal attacks are misplaced. He should understand that the legislature makes the law, and I merely enforce it.”


UPDATE: Colorado Common Cause announced today that they are filing to intervene in Scott Gessler’s lawsuit against Denver. Says Executive Director Jenny Flanagan, full release text after the jump, “Denver is doing the right thing and Scott Gessler should not be able to stop Clerk Debra Johnson from sending ballots to legally registered voters.”


Truly must-see TV, from last night’s Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC:

The key moment in Maddow’s detailed examination last night of Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s lawsuit to stop Denver from mailing ballots to voters marked “inactive,” due to having missed the 2010 general election, comes 2:40 into the clip.

These two maps of Denver show the distribution of registered voters marked “inactive failed to vote” in the voter registration database (left, areas darker brown), compared to the areas of the city with a higher percentage of minority residents (right, areas in orange). This is, in our view, perhaps the most compelling and simple argument against Gessler’s actions that has yet been made–it’s stunningly easy to see which voters will be affected by Gessler’s order if it prevails.

This kind of report makes it increasingly difficult to give Scott Gessler the benefit of the doubt. Objectively tougher to conclude that Gessler is not targeting urban, minority populations in Denver for vote suppression, on a scale and with a degree of precision that the state of Colorado has possibly never before seen in its history. There is no question that Gessler is aware of this demographic convergence of “inactive” and minority voters–it’s his job to be aware.

In a situation with consequences this stark–over 50,000 “inactive” voters in Denver, 1.2 million across the state of Colorado–and with consequences to federally protected minority populations so plainly disproportionate, can the Justice Department not intervene?

The second half of Maddow’s feature on Gessler after the jump–an interview with Denver County Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson, explaining further her position and Denver’s experience from sending these ballots without incident for the last five elections.

Something’s got to give here, folks.

Colorado Common Cause Files to Intervene in Gessler v. Denver

Colorado Common Cause today asked to become part of the lawsuit between Secretary of State Scott Gessler and Denver, on behalf of their members who are inactive voters in Denver.

“Denver is doing the right thing and Scott Gessler should not be able to stop Clerk Debra Johnson from sending ballots to legally registered voters,” said Jenny Flanagan, executive director of Colorado Common Cause.

Gessler asked a Denver court to prevent the clerk’s office from sending ballots to so-called “inactive” voters (those who miss just 1 general election) for the November 1 mail-only election because he believes it violates the law.

In their request to intervene in the case, Common Cause says the election code, particular in mail ballot election, demonstrates that the legislature intended to increase voter participation, not decrease participation in Colorado elections.

Common Cause also argues that the law violates both the U.S. and Colorado Constitutions.

“The right to vote is a fundamental right of every citizen.” said Flanagan.

The motion says that Gessler’s actions would violate the free speech and equal protection guaranteed in the First and Fourteenth amendments. The US and Colorado Constitution protect an eligible elector’s right to vote.

If the Common Cause motion is granted, the organization will participate in Friday’s hearing for a preliminary injunction in Denver District Court at 1:00 p.m.  Common Cause is represented by local Denver attorney and Common Cause board member, Lee Gray, with Holland and Hart.

Documents available at


25 thoughts on “MSNBC’s Maddow Devastates Gessler’s “Inactive Voter” Lawsuit

  1. to the more general media, especially local TV news which seems absolutely devoted to spending as little time on local political issues as possible.

  2. I am a proud card-carrying member of the ACLU and today got an email, that states, in part..

    In the courtroom, our legal department will be supporting the efforts of Colorado Common Cause, which intends to join the City of Denver’s fight against Gessler’s lawsuit by intervening on behalf of Denver voters.

    The first court hearing is set for this Friday, October 7th.

  3. and what is more insulting is when those like ArapaGOP attempt to explain this away as anything other than EXACTLY WHAT IT IS, ie. disenfranchisement. Do they honestly believe they are convincing anybody ? Some people have no character and no shame these days.

    1. The dog ate your homework, the state’s web site was down, you’re always late with your cable bill.

      Boo hoo.

      These excuses are wearing thin. We’re going to make it very hard for you to vote, and that’s the end of it. Get used to it.

      1. Why Democrats can’t seem to keep their paperwork in order. Why can’t Democrats comply with deadlines? Why are they always straggling and demanding special accommodation? Isn’t that unfair to everyone who takes responsibility for their status?

        Voting is a responsibility. For the millionth time, just get these people to follow the rules everyone else does and there will be no problem.

        BTW, if it’s really this coincidental racial stuff that you’re hanging your hat on, you’re going to outrage white voters who follow the rules. You still need some of those, anyway.

        And I still haven’t got a straight answer, is every county clerk who is not sending these ballots racist or in league with Gessler??

        1. A deadline is a deadline is a deadline. If someone makes a good faith effort to meet it, but they can’t because Gessler’s doesn’t know how to supervise his tech dept, it’s the user’s fault.


          1. people get sick/are poor/unemployed/disadvantaged/struggling because its their always their own fault, and since it is their own fault we can’t do anything about it so have a good day.

            But then here is the real kicker:

            Unless, of course, something like that happens to me, which in that case we will of course need to make an exception…

            1. That’s it!  That’s the true meaning of “American exceptionalism” for which righties love to wave the flag.  All these rules apply . . . except when I have a problem, then new rules apply.

        2. failing to comply with a deadline. Getting to register during the allowed window of time is not asking for any special consideration.  Every new circumstance draws forth a new talking point excuse. None have been valid. Not the expense.  Not the non-existent fraud.

          Now your excuse is that people who are complying with deadlines don’t deserve the opportunity if they didn’t comply early.  And you expect us to believe that these are the reasons for Gessler’s attempt to insert an “only” where there is none even if that means disenfranchising troops serving their country.

          Why is it that Republicans like you and Gessler can’t seem to stop lying (that there’s voter fraud and proven cases of illegal aliens voting in Colorado), cheating and making up excuses for voter suppression even if it means screwing some troops, mostly fellow Republican voters?  

        3. I’d still like to know

          Why Democrats can’t seem to keep their paperwork in order. Why can’t Democrats comply with deadlines? Why are they always straggling and demanding special accommodation? Isn’t that unfair to everyone who takes responsibility for their status?

          . . . you Dems need to be a lot more like the (Larimer County?) Republicans, Gessler never has had and shouldn’t have any sympathy for paperwork deadline failures.

    1. In a nutshell:

      430,524 signatures needed

      60 days to collect them

      election held 45-75 days after petition verified and protest period as elapsed.

      Replacement canidates are on same ballot and must petition on  using normal petition rules for the office (1500 signatures from each CD within the same party)


      Sec. of State is the person who oversees the recall process of the Sec of State.

        1. Gessler likely does not have the scruples to recuse himself.

          One of the metro county clerks could be tapped for the job, or perhaps the AG’s office.

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