Sucks To Be Wayne Williams

UPDATE: The Denver Post’s John Frank:

“In retrospect we could have done a better job on the review of the individual lines and I think we all admit that,” said Judd Choate, the elections director in the secretary of state’s office. “And that’s why we are trying to develop better policies.”

At the same time, state election officials acknowledged that the scope of the controversy involving forged signatures is still unknown. The secretary of state’s office has not yet conducted a review of other petitions submitted by the same collector who submitted the questionable signatures for Keyser. [Pols emphasis]

“We haven’t looked at it,” Choate said.

“We haven’t looked at it.” That’s encouraging. Maybe the Secretary of State’s office can get around to doing their job later this summer.


Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

The office of Colorado’s Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams held a press conference today, to respond to this week’s shocking update in the ongoing scandal over forged petition signatures submitted on behalf of Senate candidate Jon Keyser: the revelation that Williams’ office was made aware of a deceased voter who had “signed” Keyser’s petition over a month ago, weeks before a local liberal group exposed the initial forgeries on May 3. As the Aurora Sentinel’s Chris Harrop reports:

Judd Choate, state election director in the Secretary of State’s office, addressed an array of questions Thursday, May 19, over the petition process after U.S. Senate candidate Jon Keyer’s campaign became embroiled in a controversy over forged signatures discovered on his petitions.

One signature in particular — that of Judy DeSantis, who died in January — was found on Keyser’s petition, dated March 28. An elections worker was notified of the anomaly in April, but the issue was not brought to the attention of Secretary of State Wayne Williams until Tuesday, May 17.

“Under state law we are permitted to evaluate the content of a signature … we are not permitted under state law to compare signatures,” Choate told reporters, explaining that the reporting procedures at the time did not call for checking the date of the signature against the date of the voter’s death.

“We would have no reason to believe they have done anything wrong here,” Choate said, later adding that “the assumption was that they had died after signing the petition.”

liarliarkeyserReaders will be pleased to learn that the Secretary of State’s office is moving to correct this rather stupefying gap in their signature verification process for petitions. Again, what we’re talking about is routine verification of a voters’ identity and valid signature that already occurs with actual ballots–just not with petition signatures. We know exactly what needs to be done to catch fraud like the forgeries in Keyser’s petitions, it simply wasn’t done due to the “cost and effort” involved. And because, well, the law didn’t say the Secretary of State had to.

From there, things got a bit more defensive:

As to the larger issue of signature verification, Choate said that his office is prohibited by law from taking that step while some county elections officials — such as those in Denver — have implemented signature verification under their county charters.

“It would require a change in law, we would need a statutory change … we have very, very limited authority to pursue someone for a violation like this,” Choate said.

Secretary of State spokeswoman Lynn Bartels added that the office does not have criminal prosecutorial authority. The forgery complaints to date have been referred to the Denver and Jefferson County district attorneys, respectively.

The problem is, the Secretary of State’s office is not who referred the overwhelming majority of evidence to prosecutors–a “liberal attack group” did that. The only item “referred” to investigators by Williams’ office to our knowledge was the deceased voter they reportedly knew about for a month, and we seriously doubt we would have ever heard about that were it not for the larger scandal. Excepting that action the Secretary of State’s office has mostly outright defended Jon Keyser, making assumptions about the case that investigators have in no way determined, and reaffirming with a shrug that Keyser is “on the ballot” regardless of any evidence of fraud that has been or might be uncovered.

In short, Williams has done very little to help resolve this situation, and a great deal to make it worse. He made it worse though his own ill-advised defense of Keyser, coupled with the belated admission his office failed: not just to catch these forgeries, but to heed warnings about forgeries and even dead voters coming from their own workers looking at Keyser’s petitions. And we can’t help but wonder what else may be out there we don’t yet know.

Everyone needs to do better next time, starting with the Secretary of State.

49 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. ohwilleke says:

    It is pretty stunning that the SOS decided to count a dead voter on a petition despite having notice that the voter is probably dead.  Honestly, the SOS's office which had notice of both the forgery and dead voter issues long in advance and did nothing about it and didn't tell either the candidate or the public about the problem seems like the most culpable player in the whole scandal (in addition to the bad apple signature gatherer who really needs to be prosecuted criminally and whom the SOS's office ought to have referred for prosecution.).

    • Jorgensen says:

      Why did SoS expend taxpayer money on the court case challenging the SoS decision to deny Keyser's name on the ballot? What was the cost? Apparently the SoS office attorneys (and Wayne Williams is an attorney) wasted money, withheld evidence and did nothing to defend their original decision. 

      • ohwilleke says:

        FWIW, all state agencies like the SOS are represented by the Colorado Attorney General absent extremely rare circumstances (e.g. some sort of conflict of interest, e.g., in an employment suit brought by an AG's office employee). The AG's office has its attorneys on salary, so there is no true marginal cost involved for the state.  But, the AG's office does keep track of the time they expend for each agency in the same way that private sector law firms do for internal Colorado State government accounting purposes, and also in the event of an attorneys' fee award in favor of the state in a case.

        • Jorgensen says:

          Right – I need to look at the Keyser case to see who represented the state in court. And yes, I do know the AG and others like public defenders retain outside attorneys. Thanks


  2. Moderatus says:

    None of this changes the fact that Keyser didn't know anything about this isolated instance. Everybody knows it.

    • OrangeFree says:

      If this fraudulent petition is the difference between Keyser being on the ballot or not, that changes a lot of facts, whether Mr. "I'm on the ballot" knew about it or not.  

      • BlueCat says:

        And, whether he knew about it or not, if more forgeries and dead pepole are found on petitions they haven't bothered to look at yet, he could very well not have qualified to be on the ballot. What are they waiting for? Rhetorical question, of course.

        • Moderatus says:

          There are hundreds of rejected signatures that Keyser did not challenge because he didn't need to to make the ballot. If you dig up enough bad signatures to "disqualify" him, he can just find more like the guy in Colorado Springs who didn't update his address. You're not going to take Keyser off the ballot, and Republicans are smart enough to see though the dirty tricks.

          What was Maureen's party before she switched to Republican?

          • Jorgensen says:

            She is registered as "unaffiliated" now – not certain about her past. However, her facebook shows support for Democrat/Socialist Bernie Sanders. That has been there for quite a while. Seems you’d vet an employee and past voter registration is easily obtained.


    • Diogenesdemar says:

      Maybe. Perhaps. You do understand that there's also that question of, if-triple-checked-why-doesn't-he-know which kind of goes to Keyser's capabilities, or lack thereof??? …

      … and, of course, no you don't understand.   And, I can't believe, knowing what a hopeless dipspit you are, that I just wasted the electrons and a minute's time asking you a semi-serious question.  (What the hell was I thinking today?)

    • Republican 36 says:

      Let's go over this again. You seem to be taking the position that as long as a candidate is unaware of forged signatures on his petitions those signatures count towards placing him on the ballot. Whether Mr. Keyser knew about the forged signatures is irrelevant. I assume he did not. More importantly, a forged signature can't possibly count as a valid one for the simple reason the real person who had the right to sign the candidate's petition or refuse to sign it wasn't involved. Someone else signed for them. In this case the petition circulator.

      Second, Mr. Choate's comments that the Secretary of State has limited authority in this situation is nonsense. He attempted to pawn off this situation as a criminal matter, which it is in one sense, and because of that only the district attorney or the attorney general can prosecute the alleged criminal. While that is true, his presentation today completely ignores the fact the Secretary of State is charged with insuring the petition signatures are valid. If he isn't then who is? 

      I checked the Colorado Revised Statutes, as well as the rules and regulations governing petitions and I could not find any prohibition that prevents the Secretary of State from verifying petitions by checking whether or not signatures had been forged; and in this case the Secretary of State was on notice in mid-April that one dead person had signed Mr. Keyser's petition and that there were probable forgeries.

      The Secretary of State should stop hiding behind a transparent and invisible interpretation of the law and admit he and his office failed, badly in this case, to do their job.

      As for Mr. Keyser, if it turns out he never had enough valid signatures on his petitions to qualify for the Republican U.S. Senate primary, he should voluntarily withdraw from the race. 

      • Jorgensen says:

        Agree with your assessment of the situation – especially, "the Colorado Revised Statutes, as well as the rules and regulations governing petitions and I could not find any prohibition that prevents the Secretary of State from verifying petitions by checking whether or not signatures had been forged." I know signatures are checked on ballots in Denver where I worked during an election and have absolute knowledge this has repeatedly been the policy in El Paso County where Wayne Williams served a county Clerk and Recorder, particularly during the recall of former Democratic state Sen. John Morse. So why is the SoS exempting petition signatures that staff realized looked like forgeries and needed to be checked — as well as a deceased voter's signature? 

      • ohwilleke says:

        "You seem to be taking the position that as long as a candidate is unaware of forged signatures on his petitions those signatures count towards placing him on the ballot."

        Not sure who the "you" in your comment is, but in the event it is me, I want to make clear that I don't take that position.  A forged signature or signature of a dead person should not count, period. Good intentions are irrelevant to that question.

        I do think that if a candidate is unaware of a forged signatures, that he shouldn't be politically attacked for dishonesty, even though, in this bad luck case, he may be kicked off the ballot as a result. 

        On the other hand, Keyser should certainly be faulted for basically threatening to sick his dog on a reporter and not coming clean once he figured out what happened, but shit happens and the fact that a signature gatherer working for a contractor you hire is a crook does not mean that you are a crook.

        And, the SOS’s office, which did have the relevant information weeks in advance and didn’t do anything about it, should be faulted as well. Moreover, when the failure to take action seems to flow from self-created limitations based on a crabbed reading of the relevant statutes, the blame really belongs at the top with Williams, whose bad management led to the bad call.

      • Moderatus says:

        See my reply above. Hundreds of signatures were dismissed on a technicality like the ones he got restored. If Democrats and the liberal media can dig up enough bad signatures to disqualify him he can just bring up some of those. Keyser stays on the ballot and there's nothing Michael Bennet and ProgressNow Colorado can do about it.

        • BlueCat says:

          Trust me, Bennet couldn't care less whether Keyser stays on the ballot or not. Being on the ballot just delays the day on which Keyser officially becomes toast and Bennet will beat whichever clown happens to be the last GOP clown standing against him. People should, however, care about forgery and fraud regardless. You're always going on about it when defending voter suppression legislation and you can't find a fraction of the number of instances statewide and over decades that Keyser's petitions have produced all by themselves in a matter of weeks.

          • Genghis says:

            Reporter: Jon Keyser says that he's "taking the bark off" you. Any comment?

            Bennet: Who? Is that the schizophrenic on the street corner arguing global free trade with imaginary lizard people from Europa?

        • exlurker19 says:

          So in Moddy's tiny mind, being dead is a technicality.  Oy, the Repubs.

        • Republican 36 says:

          Great, then why hasn't Mr. Keyser informed us of which of his rejected signatures fit into that category? Why hasn't Mr. Keyser just said look, even if these are forgeries, I have enough other signatures in CD-1 to remain on the ballot? But he hasn't done that.

          The bottom line here is very straight forward. Forged signatures do not count as valid ones on a candidates petition.

          Two, Secretary of State Wayne Williams is charged with insuring that only valid signatures are counted and, as in Mr. Keyser's case, forged ones are not. He failed to do that even though his office was on notice in mid-April that there was a strong possibility of forged signatures and he did nothing. And contrary to his election chief's statement yesterday, there is nothing in Colorado statutes that prevents him from doing just that. In fact, the only reasonable interpretation of our statutes is he absolutely has the duty to disqualify forged signatures.

          Third, Mr. Keyser should have called for a full investigation when this issue arose. But he didn't. If he is an honorable individual and the facts establish he doesn't have enough signatures to legally be on the primary ballot, he should voluntarily withdraw from the senate race.


          • cpolind says:

            What I wonder is why some suggest that Keyser should have been informed about this by the SoS office when it was first found. For what? The idea is to collect a ton of signatures and turn them in to be counted. If you have enough valid, fine, if not, you're out. Is it really that hard?

            The SoS should have done as Republican 36 says- simply don't count the suspect signatures. Tell the candidate to take his complaints to court and let his team convince a judge all those signatures were valid. I can be conspiratorial and say "why didn't the SoS office, headed by an establishment Republican, do that?".

            As for ProgressNow and this whole conspiracy theory. Maybe it was a whistleblower who brought this to light? Maybe someone in the SoS office saw the complaint was falling on deaf ears, so they did something about it by tipping ProgressNow or someone they know who then tipped off ProgressNow? It really doesn't matter who brought it to light. The fact is that forged signatures could possibly have put Keyser on the ballot.

            When you hire a contractor to build a house, and you find out the toilet is installed wrong after the house is done, who do you call? The plumber who the contractor hired to do the job, or do you call the contractor? It starts at the TOP if you give a rip about your name and credibility.

            • Duke Cox says:

              It starts at the TOP if you give a rip about your name and credibility.  

              Absolutely. I have been a GC for many years. If you look at a set of blueprints (which are never blue anymore) you will see these words on practically every page…"the sole responsibility of the general contractor " . a candidate runs a top down operation with performance parameters very similar to a building project. This is on Keyser. Alone.

    • Jorgensen says:

      Keyser is totally responsible for his campaign efforts – and worse, he claimed to have tripled checked the petitions – and the worst, it's everybody's fault but mine. That's as delusional a Keyser claiming he's Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet's worst fear – what? Bennet couldn't care less about this little pesky whining gnat. 

    • BlueCat says:

      Which is exactly what you'll say about how silly it is to iconvenience legitimate voters with draconian voter ID laws to prevent in person voter fraud the first time (because it would be the first time) 10 or more voters manage to vote in person frauduently and have their votes accepted and counted in an election before the fraud is discovered, all in in one little ol' CD. Right Modster?  Benghazi! It's all Obama's fault! Wait…. not all. Lots of  it is HRC's fault but it's all financed by Soros.

  3. Big Time says:

    But at least the Colorado GOP tried to get Voter ID laws passed to stop all the non-existent voting fraud … meanwhile, they are totally cool with their candidates committing actual fraud. 

  4. Gray in Mountains says:

    No signatures are required to run for VP. I'll bet Trump would love Duke

  5. Davie says:

    Man!  It must be a breeze to be a Republican.  When you screw up, it's never your fault! 

    There is always someone else responsible, and often many responsible parties (none being Republicans, of course).

    On top of that, you can always mention that "It's not my job to do my job" — Wayne baby, back me up on that one!

  6. DaftPunk says:

    Sucks to suck (and to your Athmar,piggy!)

  7. Moderatus says:

    I'll bet ProgerssNow Colorado is raking in the Soros dough now. Good smear mongers! You've earned your paychecks, but I hope you can sleep at night.

    • Jorgensen says:

      Quit crying, dab your red eyes and wipe your running nose. Dribble, dribble, dribble – get over it. The Keyser screw up was caused by him, "commander in chief" of his political fate, campaign staffers and consultants — all of whom he hired and paid. Got it?!!!  This is a business – run it to soar or run it in the ground, the latter is what Keyser did (nose dived). Yes, we'll all sleep tonight – and even better in the future when the Secretary of State's Office does its job. Now, quit sniffling and move on. Tomorrow will better for you.

    • Curmudgeon says:

      You really do think that people only express opinions because they're paid to do so, don't you?

    • BlueCat says:

      True to form. Soros money, which he may or may not have been contributed to ProgressNow, bad. Koch money to any rightie group fine. Except what's a poor modster to do when the Kochs turn against the GOP's presidential candidate? And who's funding the DAs and such doing the investigating now? And who are the collective "you" who have earned our paychecks? ColPols? We the people who post here? Mine must have gotten lost in the mail.

      • Diogenesdemar says:

        It's time the truth came out . . .

        . . . this whole Keyser "fiasco"?  Obviously another well-orchestrated plot by the right wing to frame Progress Now!!!   No way that someone as young, bright, articulate, and experienced as Keyser could be such a stupid fucking asshat — it's just pretense!  He's the ultimate "good soldier," and will be well rewarded in due time . . . 

    • MichaelBowman says:

      …says our Republican 'Fluffer-in-Chief'

  8. davebarnes says:

    Why hasn't Wayne fired the sorry ass of  Judd Choate?

  9. Cogito says:

    It used to be that those serving as Colorado Secretary of State might reasonably have higher political ambitions.  Don't know if Williams has them or not, but this will probably end his political career as well.

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