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September 08, 2012 07:12 PM UTC

Gessler's "Illegal Voter" Witch Hunt Ends With a Whimper

  • by: Colorado Pols

9NEWS’ Brandon Rittiman:

Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler says 141 non-citizens are illegally registered to vote in Colorado but he’s backed off from a divisive plan to hold hearings to challenge their status before November.

Non-citizens are ineligible to vote. Gessler says 35 of those previously voted.

Rather than remove those people from voter rolls himself, Gessler’s office says it will transmit the names to county clerks, who are currently authorized to handle verification of voter eligibility.

The Fort Collins Coloradoan’s Patrick Malone:

Seven voters registered in Larimer County and three registered in Weld County are among 141 statewide whose citizenship Gessler’s office seeks to challenge…

The original list consisted of 3,903 registered voters. So far, Gessler has compared 1,416 names on the list to a U.S. Department of Homeland Security database. He found that one in 10 of the registered voters in question do not have legal U.S. citizenship, and 35 of them have voted in past elections…

To date, one registered noncitizen has voluntarily contacted [Larimer County Clerk] Doyle’s office to withdraw his voter registration.

“It was a guy with a work visa. He didn’t even know he was registered to vote,” Doyle said. “Somehow we think it was a clerical mistake at the Department of Motor Vehicles when he got his driver’s license.” [Pols emphasis]

AP’s Ivan Moreno via the Durango Herald:

“We confirmed our current voter registration has vulnerabilities,” Gessler said. He said there was not enough time to hold hearings challenging the citizenship of those 141 noncitizens before November.

Democratic attorney Martha Tierney said the number of noncitizens registered to vote that Gessler found shows that his search was a waste of time. Those 141 registered voters are .004 percent of the state’s nearly 3.5 million voters.

“I still don’t think that this is a wise use of resources,” she said.

First of all, this argument that there is insufficient time to hold hearings on these 141 voters that Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler has narrowed down from a dragnet of thousands, while likely true, is not what Gessler office has previously stated. Back when the true number of improperly registered noncitizen voters was unknown, his office was fully prepared to travel the state holding “emergency” hearings to determine these voters’ status.

So why isn’t that happening?

The answer is simple: after years of fearmongering and the endless, irresponsible tossing about of conjectural and unverified figures, the final results of Gessler’s obsessive quest to uncover what he has repeatedly warned are “thousands” of noncitizens casting ballots in Colorado elections are a total embarrassment.

It appears that Gessler has disregarded the thousands of letters he sent asking for verification–letters that it’s now known went in the overwhelming majority of cases to perfectly legal U.S. citizen voters, and with a partisan divide so lopsided that, intended or not, underscored Gessler’s partisan motivations unmistakably. Gessler is now only seeking to verify 141 voters provisionally flagged by a Homeland Security database–and of those, less than three dozen who may have actually voted. In those cases, Gessler is turning over the information to county clerks, who have existing challenge procedures to request verification, certifying or canceling as needed.

Bottom line: Scott Gessler has unintentionally done more to refute the right wing’s conspiracy theories of American elections under threat from armies of illegal voters than most Democrats. We believe that Gessler had honestly convinced himself of the truth of this partisan, race-baiting nonsense, and we have to think Gessler is very disappointed in these results.

Considering the many ways our elections could benefit from scrutiny, investment, and improvement, Gessler’s failed partisan witch hunt has wasted more than everyone’s valuable time. By obsessing quixotically over a problem that doesn’t exist, Gessler has distracted his office, and by extension the whole system, from other problems that do. And when you combine Gessler’s wrongheaded fixation on “illegal voters” with other actions, like slashing fines for like-minded political committees and the Larimer County Republicans, or repeated attempts to roll back campaign finance disclosure laws, a picture emerges of what may really be considered, objectively and without hyperbole, the worst Secretary of State in Colorado history.


16 thoughts on “Gessler’s “Illegal Voter” Witch Hunt Ends With a Whimper

    1. to believve Grueskin is involved? He interviewed him right? Was there ever a suggestion that he was involved either in Gessler’s actions or the investigation? If not, you BX, have laid questions on the character of someone

  1. No not his job as SOS, silly, his real job–as Republican Party operative.  

    You can think of his SOS salary as just sort of per diem.  His real salary will be deferred until he takes his place as a lawyer/lobbyist for some Repub business or PAC etc.

    So it makes no sense to evaluate his performance compared to an actual SOS.  The real question is how effective has he been in service of the Repub party? If as you say he has diverted energy and resources away from real issues that would facilitate full voter participation to this smokescreen, then I say, Mission Accomplished! You’re doing a heckuva job Scottie!  

  2. An article that was on the same page in today’s paper as the article on Gessler’s numbers including the alleged 35 non-citizen voters.  It dealt with those voters who received notice that they were eligible but not registered and who actually are registered. The man interviewed happened to be a Dem who has been registered and has voted in every election since the 70S.  

    The possible explanation offered was that the program used couldn’t compensate for things like sometimes using an initial (John A. Smith) and sometimes not (John Smith) and other minor deviations like that. Could this account for any of the 35?  Could it be that they have names similar to people who voted legally?  

    The no fly list has certainly made life difficult for people with common, especially common Muslim, names. Just wondering.

    Regardless, how much more damage is done to our elections if, in preventing 36 votes, we stop a few thousand with the right to vote from doing so?  Which does greater damage to the democratic process and is a more serious outrage? Rs would probably reply that since most of those thousands presented are immigrants or Dems, their sacrifice is well worth it.

  3. There were 35 voters who were identified as voting but not citizens.  The media should contact each of those and see what’s up. How many are Republicans, Dems or Unaffs? If they voted and aren’t citizens, they should be charged and deported.  If they are citizens well, my guess is that most of them are citizens, and I’d like to know if the number is actually zero, as I suspect.

    I work in the rental housing industry.  I’m here to tell you that no illegal alien would vote in an election.  They just wouldn’t take the risk.  Hell, they won’t even take the risk of paying their rent in person.

    1. just so they could screw with the election outcome.

      If there were truly non-citizens voting (btw, not the same as illegal aliens — they wouldn’t get accidentally registered while getting a driver’s license), it was because they mistakenly thought it was their right and their patriotic duty to their adopted country to vote.

    2. Some guy’s here moving in the shadows to avoid “the law” and he takes a chance on committing a federal crime with no real pay-out for him? Yeah, I think I’ll vote the next time I’m in Mexico?  

  4. It shows that the current process can in fact weed out the very few mistakes that slip through the cracks, but that in the absence of good work, any attempt to catch those mistakes is more likely to disenfranchise real voters than to ensure that people who shouldn’t be registered to vote aren’t.

    What a colossal waste of State taxpayer money.

  5. Unfortunately, wrong-headedness and a susceptibility to scary wingnut conspiracy tales aren’t enough to make a recall campaign worth the time and money. I hope the Colo Dem Party is busy recruiting for a good candidate for 2014 so we can kick Gessler out on his ass.

  6. did in previous lead ups to the story, the thirty-five voters who may not be citizens who voted did not all vote at the same time in a single election.  This is over the course of several elections.

    The country with the most potentially non-citizen voters was Denver with eight over the entire time period.

    And, as Common Cause notes, it is entirely possible that the federal database that was relied upon to identify the 35 allegedly non-citizen voters were in fact mistakenly put in the database and are actually U.S. citizens.

    No the system isn’t perfect.  Some non-citizens have voted in Colorado elections in the 21st century.  But the numbers are vanishingly small relative to the numbers of votes cast, have never influenced the outcome of a Colorado election, and pale in number compared to other kinds of voting irregularities in a typical election.  The original vote count itself is really only accurate to roughly a 0.5 percentage point confidence interval in the first place, and overvotes, undervotes, non-voting due to error in polling place, non-voting due to inactive voter status for someone who remains at an address, affirmative voting by parolees not legally allowed to vote, failure of the postal service to timely deliver mail in ballots sent close to the cutoff, etc. are all bigger issues numerically than non-citizen voting.  The number of people who died between validly mailing their ballots and election day is probably on average larger than the number of non-citizens who actually vote.

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