Boulder County Shifting Policy; Ballots Going Out To “Inactive” Voters?

That’s the word from John Fryar of the Longmont Times-Call:

The Boulder County Clerk and Recorder’s Office on Tuesday will mail ballots to more than 145,800 active voters.

Then, either later this week or early next week, Boulder County may send ballots to about 24,600 other registered voters in the “inactive/failed-to-vote” category because they failed to vote in the 2010 general election and didn’t respond to mailed notifications.

Boulder County Clerk and Recorder Hillary Hall originally planned to send a third round of postcards to those inactive voters this week, explaining how to get back on active status so she could mail ballots for this fall’s election.

On Friday, however, a Denver District Court judge decided that Denver’s clerk and recorder could send ballots to that city’s inactive voters — a ruling that Hall said appears to allow other counties to do the same.

If the Boulder County attorney’s staff agrees, Hall said she expects to get those ballots out within a week.

We fully expect that in the aftermath of Friday’s court action, in which Secretary of State Scott Gessler was denied an injunction preventing the mailing of ballots to registered voters who missed the 2010 elections, that Boulder will indeed see its way clear to mailing out these ballots. According to the Junction Daily Blog, Mesa County Clerk Sheila Reiner intends in the wake of Friday’s ruling to send ballots to inactive deployed military voters, though she cites the cost of sending to other “inactive failed to vote” voters as a reason to not do so.

Either way, Boulder Clerk Hillary Hall’s apparent change of heart after Friday’s ruling deprives Gessler of something important–bipartisan cover for his actions. It’s likely that other county clerks will feel pressure to change their policy this week. It’s important to note, as Reiner does, that the logistical hurdles of getting these ballots out at this late date are not insubstantial for counties who failed to plan for them. But the fact is, advocates for sending these ballots in the interest of fairness have the momentum–morally and legally–after Friday’s ruling.

After all, shouldn’t the fairness arguments that apply in Denver should apply everywhere? If Gessler seeks “uniformity” in election procedures, isn’t this the way to give it to him? And when Gessler balks, as surely he will, we’ll be that much closer to revealing his true motivations.

47 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. DavidThi808 says:

    Hopefully all counties (including republican ones) will now do so.

    • ArapaGOP says:

      But let’s take an inverse view of this for just a moment. Can one of you explain, without the usual partisan bile, why the vast majority of counties chose not to send ballots to inactive voters? Both Republicans and Democrat clerks made this decision. Why?

      I realize the answer may be slightly more complicated than “Gessler is the devil.” Please try anyway.

      • DavidThi808 says:

        I think it’s because the majority of county clerks (not all!) are lazy.  

        • spaceman65 says:

          requires mailing to active registered electors, but does not prohibit clerks from mailing to “inactive” registered electors.  So the clerks can choose to mail or not to mail to the “inactives.”  One who believes strongly in voting rights should err on mailing to all registered electors, including the inactives.

        • Ralphie says:

          How can you make a stupid statement like that?

          Oh wait.  You’re David.

        • ArapaGOP says:

          This is actually your honest opinion. I don’t think the clerks will appreciate that, but thank you for saying it like you mean it.

        • BlueCat says:

          I think that since they were freed from the obligation in tight economic times, not sending seemed like a good idea to most of them. Now, with the adverse reaction to Gessler’s suit, lots of publicity about screwing the troops and things not looking so hot for Gessler’s stance in the courts even though he had the benefit of a Republican judge for the first stage, it doesn’t look like such a great idea after all.

          Gessler is making himself look so bad, so biased, so obviously too partisan to perform the duties inherent in running fair elections, he has accomplished the opposite of what he set out to accomplish.  He has instead made his voter suppression tactics so obvious, the backlash moves the pendulum toward as much inclusiveness as possible. How much you want to bet this leads to mail ins for all eligible voters in future all mail in elections?  

          But leave it to Dave, who somehow thinks he’s not really a Republican, to join Republicans in seeing all government officials and employees as lazy and incompetent. Also teachers. Also union members. Oh and everything would be peachy run on his own personal business model.

      • Ralphie says:

        cited budgetary reasons.

        But she will have three service centers available for inactives who want to vote.

        • ArapaGOP says:

          You mean what Gessler has said from the beginning. Thank you.

          Here is my point: if so many counties made this decision, and made it for what looks like reasonable purposes, than I think you have to admit that Gessler’s motives may not be as evil as this blog continually portrays him.

          That’s all I’m saying. There is obviously room to disagree about uniformity and the other issues, all I want is an admission of the possibility that Gessler is simply doing his job as he sees it.

          • Ralphie says:

            Trying to get her budget through Meis and Rowland.

            Although, if you must know, she did tell me that she had “guidance” from Gessler’s office that it wouldn’t be approved regardless.

            According to an email I got today, she’s reviewing her budget/burn rate through the end of the year to see if she can do it without a supplemental, so it’s not out of the question.

            • ArapaGOP says:

              57 to go…are they all corrupt?

                • ArapaGOP says:

                  There are 57 other counties that are not sending ballots to inactive voters based on my highly informal count. Basically every county besides Denver, Pueblo, and now Boulder (and Mesa to military inactives) is not sending mail ballots to inactive voters.

                  My question is, are they all corrupt and in Gessler’s evil pocket? Or are they simply following the law as they understand it?

                  • Ralphie says:

                    You’ll have to start phoning up their constituents to get your corruption question answered.

                    As far as ours, she’s not corrupt.

                    You don’t know who is considering what, but ignorance never stopped you.  There was a conference call among the County Clerks this morning.  Call yours and find out what was discussed.

                    • ArapaGOP says:

                      Is that the outcry came from two counties out of 64, with two more expressing more reserved misgivings. That leaves many, many clerks out there who either looked at the law and came to Gessler’s conclusion on the merits, or are corrupt and in Gessler’s or the GOP’s pocket.

                      The harsh rhetoric used by the left in this debate really leaves only two such possibilities, so I think it’s fair to ask you to choose one.

                    • Ralphie says:

                      But since I don’t agree with the premise, I won’t join you in your hypothetical.

                    • ArapaGOP says:

                      You don’t agree that apx. 57 counties did not choose to send ballots to inactive voters? I don’t think this is up for debate.

                      Do you believe that Gessler is corrupt, or have the last three weeks of anti-Gessler drumbeating been all in my imagination?

                    • ArapaGOP says:

                      That’s as close as I will get to a concession from you I guess, Ralphie. I will leave this dialogue for the judgment of other readers. You are unable to justify your extreme anti-Gessler rhetoric when questioned. Thanks for proving it.

                    • Ralphie says:

                      bullshit bullshit bullshit.

                      Do you ever write anything worthwhile?

                    • Tom says:

                      seems to be sending ballots to inactive voters. At least, I don’t know of anybody that’s received the postcard that you have to send back in order to avoid being taken off the list. If I remember correctly, Weld’s inactive voter list is humongous– about 1/3 of all voters. There would probably have been a stink if they weren’t planning on sending out those ballots.

                    • Dan Willis says:

                      Only the FTV (Falied to Vote)voters are allowed to get mail ballots automatically. The Judge’s order has no affect on the “Returned Mail” inactive voters, which are the lion’s share in any county.

                    • Tom says:

                      Steve Moreno was quoted in the Denver paper, and linked on the Rachel Maddow blog saying that he isn’t sending out 24k ballots due to budget constraints.

                      That means that he has eliminated the “Returned Mail” inactives and is simply not sending the FTVs since the total inactive list is close to 150k.

                      WTF? If this were an in-person precinct polling election, you would at least be able to fill out a provisional ballot if TWO election cycles had passed and then only if the county had bothered to clean up the rolls. This all-mail election stuff is beginning to show some major flaws.


                    • DaftPunk says:

                      You conceive of only two options.

                      Consider a third: The law describes a minimum number of voters who shall be sent ballots, but does not limit the mailing to only those.  For whatever reason, which may vary from one county to the next, those clerks chose to send to only active voters.  It could be cost, laziness, or poor rate of return that guided them to set that limit.  Having chosen that group to concentrate their efforts on does not mean they share Gessler’s view that they are forbidden from sending them to “inactive-failed-to-vote” registrants.

                      Now, I don’t know if your failure to conceive of this third interpretation represents a failure of imagination, or typical dishonest right-wing trolling, but any honest commentator would acknowledge that interpreting the actions of the clerks who did not send to inactive voters to mean that they share Gessler’s view that they are forbidden from doing so is a false dichotomy.

                      Enjoy your meal, please floss after eating,  you’ll get no more food from me.

                    • ArapaGOP says:

                      Thank you.

                      The problem with your analysis is the argument made by Democrats, from the authors of this blog to the Denver and Pueblo clerks, that not sending ballots to inactive voters would amount to denial of those voters rights to vote. If Pols, Denver and Pueblo (and now Boulder) are correct, how can the other counties stand by their decision to not mail them?

                      I’m not the one trying to have it both ways, but I am leaving you ample opportunity to explain it. I appreciate your willingness to at least try.

                    • DaftPunk says:

                      remains at the discretion of the individual clerk for whatever reasons they justify.  Republican clerks could certainly be intentionally facilitating disfranchisement of the inactives, and the Democrats could be lazyand achieving the same end.  

                      Gessler’s position removes that discretion and holds that the law prevents such mailing, implying a word (“only”) absent in the law.

                    • Tom says:

                      but it’s up to individual county clerks to solve them. I’ve noticed that clerks tend to be pretty parochial about running elections, and that the goal is that elections run smoothly and within budget without getting too much static from the voters or the parties.

                      We haven’t been doing all-mail elections long enough to have uncovered all the shortcomings yet. Clerks that see mail ballots as a cheaper alternative to polling places are likely to seek to reduce postage costs as much as they can, especially if they had a low percentage of return in the past.

                      That means that small counties can largely account for inactive voters through other records. Larger counties like Larimer and Weld can chalk their large number of inactive voters up to university populations. Urban counties can’t get away with ignoring inactive voters since a large enough percentage are simply not very active in voting rather than a transient population. Clerks have to answer to their voters and each county has its own set of pressures.

                      While it would be best to have a statewide standard, it really does need to conform to the Constitution. Counties have gotten away with patchwork standards because nobody has filed suit yet. Enough inactive voters in Denver would expect a ballot and be prepared to go to court, so Denver sends out the ballots. Elsewhere, it’s been a gamble that has paid off.  I’m sure that Denver’s CYA method will be the one to pass muster as the one that’s most fair to voters.

                    • Aristotle says:

                      and dictates to the handful of counties who send out ballots anyway, as is allowed by law, then it’s voter suppression.

                      When said Sec’y of State has a decent track record of policy moves that result in fewer voters voting, it’s fair to question the purity of his motives.

                      If Gessler had done nothing, it wouldn’t be an issue. I believe all those counties have an obligation to send those inactive voters ballots, but it’s a moral, not legal, one. And morality drives very little policy, even when an evangelical Christian is the one drawing it up.

              • Gray in Mountains says:

                just want you to know I am one of those veteran “jokers”. So is my brother, 30+ years. My father 26+ years. Both my grandads, one gassed during WW1. Virtually every male member of my family going back as far as this nation’s history goes. A bunch of “jokers”

                Thanks, you prick

          • Diogenesdemar says:

            your boss is a peach ArapaGOP, . . . now, sweet dreams, boy wonder.

          • Diogenesdemar says:

            I don’t see any mention of “voter fraud” from you yet today — Whuhhappen?  Didn’t that meme make it into today’s talking points memo (or, did you skip a paragraph)?

            MESSAGING, ArapaGOP — gotta keep repeatin’ that shit even after it’s been completely discredited, . . . it’s far too early to start going all wobbly.

      • Dan Willis says:

        Because if they had asked the SoS of they could, they would have been told no. Denver simply did not ask, they read the statute for themselves.

    • VanDammer says:

      guess she got a little angry by your misrepresentation and decided to up her game or maybe she’ll send ’em out but not bother to count ’em

      oh but now you’re gonna step it up and call 62 other county clerks lazy … classy David, real classy.

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