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October 18, 2013 08:25 AM UTC

Gessler's Big "Award"--The Rest of the Story

  • by: Colorado Pols
Secretary of State Scott Gessler.
Secretary of State Scott Gessler.

As the Denver Post's Ryan Parker sort-of reports:

The National Association of State Chief Information Officers presented Gessler the State Technology Innovator Award on Tuesday, according to a news release from the secretary of state's office.

Gessler introduced the country's first web-optimized site allowing citizens to update or verify voter registration using a smartphone or tablet following the 2012 primary election…

"Your leadership in Colorado is a shining example," NASCIO President Brenda Decker said in the release. "NASCIO and its members recognize that such leadership is critical to advancing citizen service, information sharing and good government, and we applaud you for your commitment to these efforts."

Now first of all, far be it from us to question the decision making process of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers in selecting Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler to receive this award, which is surely a nice thing to have drop in one's lap at the outset of a gubernatorial campaign. And we have to give Post reporter Ryan Parker the benefit of the doubt, since he's young and impressionable.

So he gets a pass, we suppose, for not having read this story from the very same Denver Post's Tim Hoover about that killer "web-optimized site" (what does that mean, by the way?) Gessler rolled out in 2012, for registering to vote by smartphone or tablet.

As it turned out, Gessler's "killer app" killed voter registrations.

A software glitch on the Colorado Secretary of State's mobile-optimized website prevented nearly 800 people using tablets and mobile phones from registering to vote.

Secretary of State Scott Gessler said the problem occurred between Sept. 14 and Monday because of a software update to the site. The update inadvertently caused a problem that prevented 779 people from registering, said Gessler, a Republican.

We took note of this software malfunction in September of 2012, which had the unhappy coincidence of primarily affecting union members who were in the middle of a registration campaign driving people to this mobile-optimized website. Gessler did place the blame on his office for this serious failure, but deflected criticism from "union bosses" upset about lost registrations. The fact remains, these 779 actual voter registrations lost to the ether amount to far more than any of Gessler's endless "investigations" into chimerical voter fraud have ever produced.

From a web development perspective, Gessler may have been "the first" to deploy a "mobile-optimized" website, but he surely isn't the only one by now. We can assure the technically illiterate that the trend toward what's known as responsive web design, intended to function well on all sizes of screens, is well established and much bigger than the Colorado Secretary of State's office. With that said, maybe Gessler indeed deserved this award, even with some early glitches. It's possible we'll be making a similar case for Colorado's new health insurance exchange website soon, so let's not be hypocritical.

But for the state's newspaper of record to "forget" all this history only a year after reporting it is rather dismaying.


13 thoughts on “Gessler’s Big “Award”–The Rest of the Story

    1. In the spirit of repaying a bit of reasonableness and level-headedness that you've shown in your other comments of late, how about letting me take a stab at that . . . ???

      Dateline — circa January 2015

      "Mr. Gessler has had his many detractors, and far too often well-deservedly so . . . but we would be complely remiss not to point out the one area in which Mr. Gessler tenure as SOS truly excelled by all accounts:  Mr. Gessler comported himself in the office of SOS incessantly and tirelessly so as to make it possible, nay — even ensure, that every other Colorado SOS, past and future will be looked at as reasonable, and a stunning success, by comparison.  And for this alone, we owe him a debt of thanks upon his leaving. " 

    2. Short answer…No.

      But then, the present guvs are openly partisan. If you wish to extoll Gessler's virtues, I imagine that the floor is all yours. 

      That said, I agree with David's comment above. Every major software roll-out is likely to have issues. For the guvs to criticize Gessler mere days after the less-than-perfect rollout of the health insurance exchanges is perhaps a bit hypocritical. (Though GOTP criticism of the exchange rollout is similarly hypocritical.) 

    3. He drives a nice, expensive late model fancy car and not the beat up junker he claimed when he wanted to moonlight for the partisan election law firm while overseeing our most important instituiton as a Free People.   

  1. In my comment on the Edie Hudak thread, I mentioned a positive achievement of Scott Gessler's: 

    Even Elliot's compadre, Secretary of State Scott Gessler, knows that mail in ballots and online voter registration contributed to high voter turnout. In a smarmy and (to me) ironic self-congratulatory pamphlet entitled "2012 General Election Review:
    A Colorado Success Story"
    , Gessler and deputy S.o S Suzanne Staiert crowed that Colorado's turnout had bucked the national trend, going up 1.8%, while nationwide, voter turnout trended downward by 6.8 points. 71% of Colorado voters turned out in 2012, and 97% of mail ballots were returned, according to Mr. Gessler.  From the "Colorado Success Story" linked above:

    According a recently released analysis by George Mason University, at 71.1%, Colorado ranked first in the nation for overall turnout based on voting eligible population, third in the nation for presidential turnout based on voting eligible population, (70.3%), and sixth in the nation for turnout based on voting age population (64.7%).3,4


    Here comes the irony: Gessler worked very hard to suppress those mail in ballots in 2012. He attempted to purge "non citizen" voters and "inactive" voters, but kept getting thwarted by the law, and his own election clerks. Yet, he still wants to take credit for Colorado's being #1 in the nation on voter turnout.

    It's disingenuous to look at only part of the picture. Yes, Gessler was a pioneer in online registration. It's also true that 800 voters were kicked off the online registration two weeks before November 2012, and that he attempted to kick off 4,000 "inactive" voters, most of whom voted after the county clerks reached out to them (against Gessler's wishes). 

    And he's been pursuing the same supposed 150 noncitizen voters for three years with no prosecutions.  It's all part of the big picture.

    1. I use TRACER all the time, too,and it's certainly more user friendly than many other state websites for research on campaign committees, businesses, and charities. Virginia's, for example,is a fricking nightmare. The Colorado S o S website itself is well-designed and easy to use. 

      So really, I think that Mr. Gessler is caught between the desire to be professional and expand the franchise of Colorado voters, and the partisan imperative to suppress those same voters. It must be confusing to be this man. It's why we need a Secretary of State who is not torn, who is wholly committed to free and fair voting for all eligible voters. 

      1. You should be thanking the IT staff, not Gessler.

        And I'm sure Gessler would have loved to outsource that too, if it wasn't for being a state employee.


  2. Nuance isn't really your thing, is it, Hawkeye?

    That's OK. You can rest assured that I'm no fan of Mr. Gessler, and will in fact do everything possible to make sure he is replaced by a Democrat, Mr. Neguse.

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