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July 24, 2012 02:00 AM UTC

House Dems To Gessler: You Don't Make The Law

  • by: Colorado Pols

As hearings began today on Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s controversial proposed new election rules, including barring the delivery of mail ballots to so-called “inactive–failed to vote” voters who may have simply missed one election, House Democrats led by Rep. Crisanta Duran staked out their staunch opposition. From their release:

Rep. Crisanta Duran and 29 other state legislators called on Secretary of State Scott Gessler today to halt his efforts “to restrict the legitimate exercise of Coloradans’ right to vote.”

At a hearing convened by the Secretary of State’s office this afternoon to discuss rules proposed by Secretary Gessler to prevent county clerks from mailing ballots to inactive voters, Rep. Duran (D-Denver) planned to hand him a letter, signed by 29 Democratic state representatives, saying his proposal “clearly oversteps your rulemaking authority.”

“The Secretary of State can ‘administer and enforce’ election laws,” the letter read. “What he or she cannot do is rewrite them. That prerogative is exclusively reserved to the General Assembly.” [Pols emphasis]

Rep. Claire Levy (D-Boulder) was the prime House sponsor of the legislation that allowed permanent vote-by-mail status, which would be undercut by the proposed rules. “It was our intention in that bill to increase voter participation, not to create obscure procedural obstacles,” Rep. Levy said.

The letter accused Secretary Gessler of waging “a campaign to create obstacles to voting by validly registered electors in the State of Colorado.”

“The right to vote is a fundamental constitutional right,” the letter said. “Your efforts to alienate that right are no more justifiable than abridging the freedom of speech or the free exercise of religion.”

To briefly recap, a state law requiring that mail ballots be delivered to all registered voters with a valid address expired after the 2010 election cycle. Gessler lost in court last fall attempting to stop Denver and Pueblo counties from sending these ballots, after which several other Colorado counties joined them. This year, Gessler helped kill legislation that would have clarified the status of inactive voters statewide and ensured they got mail ballots–because the “uniformity” Gessler wanted was on the side of fewer ballots being delivered.

And this is where we find ourselves today. Gessler said last fall that his intention was to protect “uniformity” in Colorado elections, but now it seems only a certain kind of “uniformity” will do.

Full text of the letter to Gessler follows after the jump. We’ll update tomorrow with coverage from today’s rules hearing–any bets on Gessler suddenly being swayed by heartfelt testimony, maybe even a pang of remorse for seeking to curtail access to the franchise instead of expanding it?

Keep your money in your pocket, we’re just kidding!

Honorable Scott Gessler

Secretary of State

State of Colorado

Dear Mr. Secretary:

We have asked Representative Crisanta Duran to deliver this letter to you and to testify on our behalf at today’s rules hearing at the Colorado Secretary of State’s office. We are confident in her ability to eloquently express our views, but we want to underscore two points:

1. We believe your proposed rule to prevent county clerks from mailing ballots in all-mail elections clearly oversteps your rulemaking authority.

There is nothing in the election law that currently prohibits clerks from mailing ballots to Inactive-Failed to Vote electors in a mail ballot election.  The Secretary of State can “administer and enforce” election laws.  What he or she cannot do is rewrite them. That prerogative is exclusively reserved to the General Assembly, of which we, the undersigned, are members.

We predict that your efforts to reach beyond your office’s allocated authority will be met with skepticism by the courts.

2. We believe your attempt to rewrite the law through these proposed rules is part of a campaign to create obstacles to voting by validly registered electors in the State of Colorado.

The right to vote is a fundamental constitutional right. Your efforts to alienate that right a

re no more justifiable than abridging the freedom of speech or the free exercise of religion.

Our democratic process works best when the greatest number of people participate in it. Intimidation and suppression of legitimate voters harkens back to some of the darkest days in our nation’s history. Attempts to reduce voter participation run contrary not only to the letter of the law, but also to the spirit of America and of the State of Colorado.

Mr. Secretary, you are the state’s chief elections official. The people of Colorado look to you to be the guardian and protector of fair and free elections. We strongly urge you to halt all efforts to restrict the legitimate exercise of Coloradans’ right to vote.


19 thoughts on “House Dems To Gessler: You Don’t Make The Law

  1. what the lack of uniformity does to the overall statewide vote? Gessler’s nefarious plot seems calculated to depress Democratic turnout, but it seems that clerks in mostly overwhelmingly Republican counties are the ones that aren’t sending out inactive ballots.

    Depressing a non-existent Dem vote doesn’t accomplish much in that case, and in rural and exurban areas it seems that there will inevitably be some effect on Republican turnout. Local elections that may turn on a few blue precincts will be tough but it seems like the statewide and presidential races could potentially see a slight Dem advantage. That is if mail-in ballots actually represent much of the vote at all and there aren’t any other dirty tricks sprung in the next few months.

    1. since I moved into Grand Junction, from Palisade a few months ago. I got a notice that I would be dropped from the active voter list, because I didn’t respond to something I got in the mail at my former address.

      I went down to the elections office and made the update about two months ago. I just got another notice last Friday, saying the same thing…stay tuned.

      and… it is time to call Scott Gessler and all of these voter suppression goons what they are… enemies of the state and the people. Active subversion of the voting process is un-American and is an assault on our constitutional rights.

      1. a good reason to replace your clerk.  Not that that’s likely in Mesa County without problems in the clerk’s office rising to a truly shameful level, but still – shouldn’t be that hard to file a bloody change of address form and take you off of the Did Not Answer list.

      1. Missing an election shouldn’t be such a big deal. The ballot already gets returned if you’re no longer at an old address. A signature is required on the envelope to prevent someone from snatching your ballot and using it fraudulently.

        As far as saving money, they’ve already wasted money on extra notices to Duke, perhaps hoping he’ll give up and stop responding so they can stop sending him his ballot.

        As far as “uniformity” there is not now nor has there ever been uniformity in elections, both the lame excuse the 2000 Supremes used to stage their bloodless coup and the reason they stipulated that the decision should not be considered as setting a precedent. Kind of precedent setting in itself, but demanding uniformity would have rendered pretty much every election invalid until universal uniformity could be achieved, a Herculean  task.

        Gessler’s transparent machinations shouldn’t be fooling anyone with more brains than a piece of toast.  

  2. canvassing door-to-door just those “inactive” voters to assist them in updating their registration, I’m astonished that they’re astonished that the SOS has taken such a stance. They have this silly notion that they’re citizens. How naive.

      1. We’re all “inactive” voters by some definition; the question is more correctly, for how long and to what degree?

        I could have voted for “eggs” or “french toast” this morning but said “I doesn’t matter to me.” (Kind of like my Dukakis/Bush decision, if I remember correctly.)

        It is not within Gessler’s perogative to answer that or penalize anyone who didn’t vote in some recent opportunity.  

      2. It’s in each party’s interest to contact voters of its affiliation and unaffiliated voters who for some reason or another have been removed from the active voter list, and offer the opportunity to re-register, update their address, name change, whatever. Most are unaware they won’t be receiving their usual mail-in ballot and may, therefore, not vote.

        Of course, Dems are in favor of citizens registering and voting. Repubs not so much. So who knows if they do this. You might ask around, jadodd.

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