Stop The Presses: A Real-Life Vote Fraud Case!

Actually, don’t. They’ll catch you.

As the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Amy Hamilton reports, and by God every time it happens somebody ought to let you know–if for no other reason than to remind you how rarely it happens:

A Grand Junction woman was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor voter fraud after she allegedly cast a mail-in ballot for her adult son last fall after becoming frustrated that her adult children didn’t seem to be voting, according to the Mesa County District Attorney’s Office.

Gail Arlene Gray, 66, told an investigator she “did a terrible thing” but she was “really (angry) at my kids for not voting, none of them were voting and then that (ballot) came in the mail and I didn’t even think, I thought I am going to vote for him…” according to an arrest affidavit released Thursday…

In a phone call on Jan. 30, the son told the investigator he had talked to his mom and learned she had voted for him. When asked by the investigator, the son said his mother’s voting choices were “not necessarily” how he voted but he “did not have hard feelings about it,” the affidavit said.

Now before anyone starts pointing partisan fingers, we looked up Gail Arlene Gray’s voter registration, and she’s unaffiliated. Considering that allegations of voter fraud are almost both exclusively leveled by Republicans and (in Colorado, anyway) and almost exclusively committed by Republicans, up to and including a former chairman of the Colorado Republican Party–but in this case, what you have is a mother upset that her son was complacent about doing his civic duty. So Mom decided to take care of it herself.

Which is, of course, a crime.

As the Sentinel reports, the fraudulent vote was caught by the system working as intended, when the son turned up at a vote center to vast a ballot in person. After confirming that a mail ballot had already been cast in his name, a signature check revealed that he wasn’t the signer–and soon after that, Mom confessed to voting on his behalf. Because Gail Arlene Gray has no criminal record, and owing to her age and cooperation with investigators, she is only facing misdemeanor election fraud charges.

The incident marks the only case of suspected voter fraud in Mesa County for the 2018 election cycle, Mesa County District Attorney Dan Rubinstein said. [Pols emphasis]

Again, it’s important to take note of these bonafide cases of election fraud when they occur. Republicans from President Donald Trump all the way down to state and local officials regularly invoke the specter of “illegal voters” subverting our elections, from former Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s baseless claims of tens of thousands of such voters in Colorado to more recent and very similar allegations of “95,000 illegal voters” in Texas. Gessler’s claims about Colorado voters totally collapsed under scrutiny, and those “thousands” of fraudulent votes boiled down to fewer than five actual cases.

With the actual incidence of election fraud in Colorado an infinitesimal fraction of what the usual suspects claim it is, the argument for any of the “solution” measures proposed in response becomes much more difficult. To stop thousands of fraudulent voters, a crackdown that prevents some fewer thousands of voters from lawfully participating might be more justifiable. But to effectively disenfranchise thousands in order to prevent…one case? Even five cases? That’s a “solution” in search of a problem. A cure worse than the disease.

And it’s based on one of the biggest falsehoods in politics today.

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Sen. Vicki Marble Recycles The Honey Badger

Former Secretary of State Scott Gessler, a.k.a. the “Honey Badger.”

Today, the Colorado Senate passed an important piece of legislation that will ensure Colorado’s Electoral College votes go to the presidential candidate who wins the nationwide popular vote–a controversial subject in smaller states including Colorado, but after the last two Republican presidents won office despite losing the popular vote, in President Donald Trump’s case by almost three million votes nationwide, a matter of increasing urgency.

Senate Bill 19-042 seems headed into law with the House likely to pass it and Gov. Jared Polis already indicating he will sign it. But Republicans in the Senate have bitterly sounded the alarm over this bill, declaring it a usurpation of Colorado’s sacred right to individual votes in presidential elections that count for more than individual votes in California and New York.

And in the case of Republican Sen. Vicki Marble, one of the fieriest of the Republican firebrands left in the Senate GOP minority, the arguments against this bill quickly veered into the twilight zone:

Transcribed:

MARBLE: Thank you Mr. Chair, I did vote against this in committee, and I am against this today. We’re talking about “every vote counts.” And I’m going to come around to this a little bit different way than anybody else has spoke on it this, this morning and afternoon and in committee. In Colorado, we are so fortunate because we have the most secure voting system in the United States. It’s really sad that all Secretary of States aren’t created equal and neither are their systems. My vote does count in Colorado, I am assured of that. But on the national level, I have a question that I want to pose to you.

When you look at Texas, 95,000 people identified by the Department of Public Safety were non-US citizens, and 58,000 of those voted in one or more Texas elections. But voter fraud isn’t just in Texas. [Pols emphasis] It’s in voting districts nationwide. Eight Virginia counties had 1,046 noncitizen registered to vote. In Pennsylvania, they sent out 100,000 voter registration cards. And they weren’t sent to people who were registered voters, they were just sent to people who had driver’s licenses.

My vote and your vote should not be cancelled out by the national popular vote of those who may not even be citizens and we know a lot of them aren’t. Until we get equal, equal safety precautions across our nation, in the Secretary of States to be able to ensure that our voters are having their voice heard. But my vote and your vote should not be cancelled out by another state who is registering people who have no legal authority to vote. The national popular vote for U.S. citizens or the national vote for just anybody who cares to cast their vote on that day, this is exactly what this bill does. The Boston Herald is the one who came out with all of these numbers, and I’m glad that did. It was updated today. Perfect timing for second reading.

But honestly, when you look at Colorado and how lucky we are, how can we give our votes to the national popular vote when we don’t even know if these people are U.S. citizens. So I am a no, a very very huge no, on 42.

So, there’s a lot of crazy to unpack. It’s very interesting to see Sen. Marble laud Colorado’s mail ballot election system as the “most secure in the United States,” since the overwhelming consensus among the vote-fraud conspiracy theory crowd is that Colorado’s elections are wildly insecure.

But the really interesting part here is Marble’s claim that 58,000 “noncitizens” voted in Texas elections. Politifact just addressed this false claim after President Donald Trump himself Tweeted about it, and their debunking will ring quite familiar to followers of Colorado politics:

State officials looked at two sets of data for their current investigation: the names of people who provided documents indicating they were not citizens when they obtained a driver’s license or a state ID, and the names of people who registered to vote.

That resulted in a list of 95,000 people with a current driver’s license or state ID who also had a voter registration record in Texas. Of those, 58,000 people voted in elections back to 1996, said Sam Taylor, a spokesman for the secretary of State…

“Indeed, between 52,000-63,000 are naturalized every year in Texas,” Texas Civil Rights Project spokesman Zenén Jaimes Pérez told PolitiFact. [Pols emphasis]

Back in 2011, Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler performed a very similar “analysis” of Colorado records to produce a list of thousands of supposed “noncitizen voters.” In truth Gessler’s wild claims of thousands of illegal voters resulted in a ridiculously tiny number of actual prosecutions for vote fraud–literally less than a dozen. The reason was simple: although some voters had obtained driver’s licenses as noncitizens, during the period in question tens of thousands of Colorado residents became U.S. citizens–more than enough to account for any supposed discrepancy. Similarly in Texas, enough people are naturalized every year to account for the 58,000 alleged to have voted since 1996.

It’s remarkable to us that four years after Gessler left office, the false claims he made that were debunked all those years ago–and even the same flawed methodology that produced them–are being repeated in Texas, reported uncritically by Texas media, and then regurgitated back here in Colorado where everyone should know better.

Anyway, now you do. Please tell your friends.

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What’s Your Favorite Blue Wave Win?

This week’s historic victory for Colorado Democrats leaves in its wake innumerable stories of hard work and triumph. There are so many big markers for the history books, like the first gay man elected governor of any state, the sweep of downballot statewide offices, recapturing the Colorado Senate after four years at the mercy of a one-seat GOP majority, the come-from-behind wins growing the Democratic House majority to unexpected heights, major Democratic wins in suburban Denver local governments–we could go on and on, and over the next few weeks we’ll be expounding at length on what this all means.

Use this thread to tell us about the 2018 success stories you were close to, or enjoyed reading about, or anything else you found inspiring coming out of the midterm elections in our state. Before the inevitable plunge back into partisan squabbles and pundit second-guessing, take a moment to contemplate significance of what we’ve just been through.

You earned this moment, Colorado.

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Trump, Gardner’s NRSC Melt Down Over AZ, FL Senate Races

President Trump (left) and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma).

Huffpost reports on the angry crossfire in Florida as the races for governor and U.S. Senator head toward a recount:

Florida Gov. Rick Scott suggested there was “rampant fraud” and called for law enforcement to investigate two counties over their election practices as the Republican’s lead in the state’s U.S. Senate race continued to shrink Thursday evening…

“Every Floridian should be concerned there may be rampant fraud happening in Palm Beach and Broward counties,” he said in a televised statement outside the governor’s mansion in Tallahassee. The governor offered no specific evidence of fraud, saying only that the counties were the only two in the state where there were irregularities.

FOX News reports that Sen. Cory Gardner’s National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) is joining Rick Scott’s lawsuit alleging fraud in Florida’s election, further clouding the Sunshine State’s political forecast:

In their lawsuit against Broward County, Scott and the National Republican Senatorial Committeee (NRSC) allege that officials there are hiding critical information about the number of votes cast and counted. And in a parallel suit against Palm Beach County, Scott and the NRSC charge that the election supervisor there illegally used her own judgment to determine voter intent when reviewing damaged or incorrectly filled-out absentee ballots, while refusing to allow impartial witnesses to monitor the process.

And in the other remaining U.S. Senate hotspot of 2018, Politico’s Burgess Everett reporting that Gardner’s NRSC is ramping up election fraud allegations in the close Senate race in Arizona, in which Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema is pulling narrowly ahead as the count grinds on:

Earlier today, President Donald Trump actually suggested an electoral do-over in Arizona, which is insane:

Of course, here in Colorado we have mail ballots like Arizona does, and we know that the signature verification process always results in some number of ballots being rejected. In close races, these ballots are sometimes tracked back to their owners and “cured” of such deficiencies, whereupon they can become decisive votes–something we are likely to see in close Colorado House races this year in which ballots are still being counted.

With all of this in mind, Sen. Cory Gardner is once again stuck–between needing to support Republican candidates as the head of the NRSC, and the fact that these flailing charges of vote fraud look ridiculous to Colorado voters Gardner needs to immediately begin patching things up with if he has any desire to be re-elected in two years. The conflict Gardner faces is making itself evident all kinds of ways since the election, not least with the NRSC declaring itself in lockstep with the President right after Colorado dealt Trump’s (and Gardner’s) party an historic shellacking at the polls.

Colorado voters have heard these allegations countless times before. And they have never panned out.

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300, the Denver College Affordability Fund, Is a Photo Finish

As of 1pm the day after the election Initiated Ordinance 300 is behind by just 43 votes. This is out of 79,175 for and 79,218 against. With more than 6,000 undervotes and 21 overvotes (Source: DenverGov) a recount seems incredibly likely.

With four other tax increases on the ballot this effort may have just been one too many for Denver voters. Also, opponents raised the issue of if this should be a function of city government. Though language was submitted to the blue book to oppose this measure there was no organized campaign against it other than statements made by the usual suspects.

The rest of the Denver tax increases, 2A, 301, 302, and 7G passed by wide to significant margins.

Parks – 61.44% yes
Mental Health – 68.11% yes
Childhood Healthy Meals – 57.42% yes
Flood Control – 60.04% yes (Denver alone)

District Wide
Flood Control – 55.35% yes (source: Denver Post)

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“Voter Purge” Claims Don’t Pan Out, But Check Anyway

Don’t worry, you get to.

In the last 48 hours there’s been a considerable amount of concern raised by a report from freelance investigative journalist Greg Palast, who has spent many years gumshoeing election processes throughout the 50 states–sometimes finding significant examples of vote suppression on the part of Republican Secretaries of State, Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004 being two prominent presidential-election examples of Palast’s work.

This time, however, as 9NEWS reported last night in detail, Palast got a little over his proverbial skis–and let a few misunderstandings about Colorado’s highly accessible election system, in which voters can take part several different ways including Election Day registration, lead to an unnecessary alarmist conclusion:

Greg Palast, an independent journalist who has written for Rolling Stone and other publications, wrote on his website Friday that Colorado is one of several states purging voters from its rolls. Per his report, more than 769,000 registrations were wiped from state records. He made similar claims against other states, like Georgia and Illinois, as well.

Voter registrations in Colorado may be canceled for several reasons including an out-of-state move, a felony conviction or death. Your voter registration could also be canceled if you chose not to vote in recent elections and didn’t respond to inquiries from your county clerk after…[o]ther votes are considered inactive but have not have their registrations canceled.

“What that means is that we have sent them a ballot or mail in the past and that mail has bounced. So, in all likelihood, those voters no longer live here in Colorado. But if they do, they still haven’t been purged, they’re just inactive, and they can reactivate by going to the polls and voting or getting online and changing their voter registration,” Staiert said.

The key thing to understand here is that unlike most other states, in Colorado being “inactivated” for the purposes of being mailed a ballot is in no way a final barrier to voting in any election. Colorado is subscribed to the National Change of Address database (NCOALink), which securely accesses USPS change of address data to keep voting records up to date. In addition, voters for whom election mail is returned are correctly inactivated so that mail ballots aren’t just going out willy-nilly. The large number of registrations affected simply reflects better tracking of these routine changes, not any conspiracy to suppress the vote.

And the bottom line is Colorado’s model election system, which features some of the highest turnouts of any American election since the passage of mail ballots and same-day registration in 2013, wouldn’t work to suppress the vote anyway–since any voter can update their status with one click to the Secretary of State’s website and a few updates to their information. If they do that before October 29, they’ll still get a mail ballot. If a voter misses that deadline, they can fix their registration or even register and vote all the way up to Election Day. To compare our system to so many other states where the rules are indeed set up to purge voters with convoluted recourse or none at all simply reflects a lack of understanding. And if you don’t want to take Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams’ word for that, which we understand given some of his wacky past statements, here’s his Democratic opponent Jena Griswold:

Williams’ Democratic challenger Jena Griswold issued a statement Monday saying she does not find the claims to be factual.

“The reports on voter purges in Colorado are not true. We need more facts, and less scare tactics in our politics,” she said. [Pols emphasis]

That is the best advice we can give anyone. In this case, we do think the misunderstanding was well-intentioned–and if anything should result in more voters taking the literal thirty seconds required to verify their voter record is up to date before it ever becomes an impediment to their casting a ballot. Even after the mail ballot deadline, no eligible voter in Colorado is truly out of options until the polls close on Election Night.

That’s why Colorado’s voter participation leads the nation–and will again in 2018.

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What The Hell Do You MEAN 3,000 Ballots Isn’t a Problem?

Secretary of State Wayne Williams (R).

FOX 31 reports while we shake our heads incredulously:

More than 3,100 votes have been thrown out in Colorado because unaffiliated voters turned in Democratic and Republican ballots…

Secretary of State Wyane Williams acknowledges the votes will be discarded but said the number is not as high as some predicted a few years ago.

“Several thousand unaffiliated Coloradans who did turn in two ballots — those ballots cannot be counted,” Williams said.

When asked if they could ask if anything can be done between now and when polls close Tuesday, Williams said no. [Pols emphasis]

Let’s put a little context on this situation. After the 2016 elections, CBS4 breathlessly reported about several cases of apparent voter fraud using mail ballots that were sent to voters who had died, moved, or otherwise not themselves lawfully voted. In other cases–and we’re talking about maybe a dozen cases–voters who received ballots in Colorado and Kansas voted both. These few individual cases, which in turn led to a handful of convictions, seemed to be a very serious matter to Secretary of State Wayne Williams and other officials who generally happened to be Republican:

“We do believe there were several instances of potential vote fraud that occurred,” said Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams after reviewing the CBS4 findings. “It shows there is the potential for fraud.”

The cases of dead men and women casting ballots ranged from El Paso County in southern Colorado to Denver and Jefferson County. CBS4 discovered the fraudulent voting by comparing databases of voting histories in Colorado against a federal death database…

“That’s illegal,” said El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Chuck Broerman, who called the CBS4 findings “very serious.”

“I was shocked and surprised at this,” said Broerman. “This cannot happen. We cannot have this here or anyplace in our country. Our democracy depends on it. People have spilled their blood for the values and underpinnings and beliefs of this country.” [Pols emphasis]

Got that, readers? “This cannot happen. Our democracy depends on it.” In Colorado’s recent history we’ve heard repeated wild allegations that massive election fraud was flipping elections in this state for years before Donald Trump made it one of his go-to talking points. Former Secretary of State Scott Gessler baselessly claimed that “tens of thousands” of people voted illegally in Colorado, an investigation that in the end uncovered a whopping four alleged cases of fraud. In terms of actual voter fraud convictions, one of the only bonafide examples is former Colorado GOP chairman Steve Curtis–who voted his ex-wife’s ballot and paid a humiliating price. But in all of these cases, as the inflated predictions dwindled down to the reality of a dozen or so actual cases, Republican vote fraud “truthers” insisted that every individual ballot was a sacred component of our small-d democracy, and that one single wrongful vote could endanger our liberty at a fundamental level.

But forget all that in 2018, Colorado–because over three thousand people either broke the rules of the primary election or couldn’t comprehend them, and to the same Secretary of State Williams, that’s no big deal! Because of the passage of the frightfully ill-conceived Proposition 108 in 2016, unaffiliated voters in Colorado were sent perhaps the most counterintuitive piece of election mail in the history of election mail. They were sent two ballots, but they could only vote on one. And as it turns out, no amount of accompanying instruction was able to overcome either devious nature or stupidity in the case of thousands. Of. Voters.

So…what are we going to do about this? If there wasn’t a huge amount of money and influence behind the true goals of Proposition 108, which was to further undermine the role of the parties and open primaries to shenanigans for anyone with the money to play, these three thousand voters would be a cause célèbre–either as villains or as victims. That the Secretary of State is leading the campaign to downplay the significance of these thousands of votes is…well, it’s every bit as hypocritical as it looks.

And make no mistake, thousands of votes not being counted is a big problem. Of course it’s a big problem. If you don’t think that’s a big problem, you have absolutely no business running (or running in) an election. As we said before, if the margin of discarded unaffiliated primary ballots proves decisive in any race today, it’s a full-scale disaster. Even short of that, if ever there was a situation where the legislature should intervene to correct a misguided statutory change by popular vote, this is it.

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Voter Suppression, not 3rd party voters, elected Donald Trump

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Voter suppression got Trump elected in 2016. Third party voting was one factor, but not the critical factor.  This was the first Presidential election not under the supervision of the Voting Rights Act, and Republican officials took full advantage of this lack of oversight to disenfranchise thousands of voters. Voters who couldn’t vote elected Donald Trump.

Voter ID required - New Hampshire

NH Polling Place sign – from Wikimedia Commons

Below is a table with vote totals from four states, which Trump won electorally  in 2016. Vote totals were taken from official state canvasses, completed in December 2016, after all provisional ballots had either been counted or found ineligible.

They show that 3rd party voters (Johnson & Stein) voted in numbers exceeding the DJT – HRC margin, but that in most cases, the number of voters prevented from voting far exceeded these numbers.

Pundits: Stein didn’t cost Clinton the election

Political pundits such as 538’s Nate Silver , WSJ’s Tau, and  TheHill’s Jeffries point to Gary Johnson’s taking equally from Clinton and Trump, and say that there is no realistic scenario in which Stein voters cost Clinton the Presidency.

If only 90% of the extra Stein voters had voted for Hillary while the rest voted for Trump or stayed home, Michigan is the only state that would have flipped. In none of these scenarios did Jill Stein voters cost Hillary Clinton the presidency.

It’s harder to say who Johnson hurt more since he tended to pull more evenly from both sides of the political divide.

Nate Silver of 538 combs through the weeds in his piece, Jill Stein – Spoiler or Scapegoat?. Even the New Yorker’s Toobin, no friend of “narcissist” Jill Stein, writes 

It’s difficult to count uncast votes, but there were clearly thousands of them as a result of the voter-suppression measures.

Voter ID laws were passed in these (and many other) states which disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of poor, elderly, students, and people of color. This was intentional – and done in order to keep Democrats from voting. 

(more…)

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A Few More Words On Matt Arnold, Preeminent Political Gadfly

Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

CBS4’s Brian Maass reports, the busiest watchdog in Colorado politics is at it again–and this time he’s gotten quite a ways down the proverbial field, with a Denver grand jury now investigating alleged official misconduct on the part of GOP Secretary of State Wayne Williams:

CBS4 has learned a Denver grand jury is investigating criminal complaints against Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

The grand jury began meeting this month, hearing from witnesses and listening to evidence alleging “official misconduct” on the part of Williams and his office. First-degree official misconduct is a misdemeanor.

Ken Lane, a spokesperson for Denver District Attorney Beth McCann, responded to a CBS4 inquiry, ”I can confirm there is an open investigation in the Denver grand jury relating to the Colorado Secretary of State, and that it concerns campaign finance complaints and the collection of campaign finance penalties. Per the rules and procedures governing grand jury proceedings, we cannot comment further on pending grand jury investigations.”

Matt Arnold, a longtime conservative Republican activist and one-time candidate for the CU Board of Regents, deeply embarrassed high-level Republican operatives associated with two-time gubernatorial loser Bob Beauprez after he won a court ruling against Colorado Pioneer Action–an “independent” political group set up by Beauprez that targeted a number of right-wing Republicans in 2016 primaries. Arnold’s suit provoked an ethically dubious series of attacks from the Phil Anschutz-owned Colorado Springs Gazette on Arnold both by the editorial board and a reporter for the paper’s political blog–both of which had financial ties to Beauprez’s group.

So no, Matt Arnold is not very popular at Republican insider cocktail parties. We can’t speak to the motivations behind all of Arnold’s mercurial actions, but in Pioneer Action’s case it would straightforwardly be in defense of the incumbent Republicans Beauprez targeted. Whatever was going on behind the scenes there, it’s not hard to understand why Arnold–like other conservative Republicans who support those candidates–did what he did.

As for Arnold’s complaint against Williams, there are two parts: first being a fine of almost $10,000 owed by a Colorado Springs-area political committee for which Sen. Bob Gardner is the registered agent. The second part, as we’ll let Arnold himself explain, concerns Williams’ intervention in numerous campaign finance cases on behalf of defendants Arnolds says are Williams’ cronies:

Arnold says a more serious problem being examined by the grand jury is Williams office using at least $25,000 in state money to legally intervene in at least half a dozen campaign finance cases.

According to Arnold’s complaint, ”Williams, in committing state resources to essentially act as defense counsel for several lawbreaking organizations and individuals, all of whom are his allies and/or contributors, acts unethically and is without parallel on the record. Consequently, Secretary Williams has, in an unauthorized exercise of his official function, directed the misuse of over $25,000 of taxpayer (public) funds for the benefit of the above-listed committees – all of whom are run by associates and political allies of Secretary Williams, who has put favors to friends above his duties to his office, the state of Colorado, and the citizens of this state, from late 2015 through at least the end of 2016 (and continuing).”

As you can imagine, Williams doesn’t agree! We want to wait to see what the grand jury investigating concludes before waxing definitive, but here’s what we’ll say in the meantime: the Secretary of State in Colorado, as a partisan elected official in charge of the elections process, may honestly be inherently conflicted in the way the duties of the office are carried out. Long before Wayne Williams, there was former Secretary of State Scott Gessler who offered to appear in a dunk tank to raise money to pay off Republican Party fines. You had Secretary of State Mike Coffman’s brush with scandal over a high-level aide caught peddling voter data to Republicans on the side. Gigi Dennis’ controversial attempts to throttle Democratic money in the last days before the 2006 election. The list of these conflict-y situations involving our Secretaries of State frankly goes on and on, and we could see a court somewhere along the line finding fundamental and systemic problems with the office’s duties and responsibilities.

In that regard, Williams would not be unique from his predecessors–but if the accountability for a much larger problem comes down on Williams’ watch, he’d still be the one to take the fall. Either way, we have no intention of blowing this off the way Arnold’s critics have always insisted we do with every one of his many accountability campaigns.

Because Bob Beauprez tried that, and Matt Arnold had the last laugh.

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Ex-Colorado GOP Chairman Steve Curtis Guilty of Voter Fraud

Former Colorado GOP chairman Steve Curtis.

Denver7 reporting from Weld County District Court, where a former chairman of the Colorado Republican Party was convicted today by a jury of felony forgery and election fraud–another development in what’s become a crazy week of Republican True Crime Stories™:

Steve Curtis, the former chairman for the Colorado Republican Party, was found guilty Thursday by a Weld County jury of voter fraud and forgery.

Curtis, 58, was arrested in March and accused of signing his wife’s mail-in ballot for her, which is a misdemeanor in Colorado. He was also charged with forgery of a public record, a fifth-degree felony…

“He knew exactly what he was doing,” argued Deputy District Attorney Tate Costin during closing arguments. “He received it in the mail, opened it, voted, signed it, sealed it back up and sent it in. If he were going to sign a name during this confused diabetic state, wouldn’t he sign his own name? Why her name? She hadn’t even lived in the house for 11 months.”

Curtis was the state’s GOP chairman from 1997 to 1999, and caused a stir ahead of the 2016 election when he said on KLZ 560: “It seems to be, and correct me if I’m wrong here, but virtually every case of voter fraud I can remember in my lifetime was committed by Democrats.” [Pols emphasis]

Ex-Colorado GOP chairman Steve Curtis’ defense that health problems somehow compelled him to forge his wife’s name on her ballot didn’t fly with the jury, and now Mr. Curtis gets to spend the rest of his days reflecting on the irony of being convicted of a crime he claimed only those rascally Democrats ever commit! In truth, as we’ve consistently found to be the case in our years covering Colorado politics, is that Republicans tend to do approximately 100% of the hand-wringing about voter fraud and the commission thereof.

And with that, one of the storylines in what we’ve come to call Colorado GOP Crime Week–which started as a joke, then really became a thing–has gotten to the final chapter. Stay tuned to see how the Pueblo GOP treasurer wanted for theft on the lam in El Salvador and the developing case of Rep. Lori Saine‘s loaded pistol at the airport get resolved.

Never a dull moment, folks.

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Ex-Colorado GOP Chair’s Vote Fraud Trial Underway

Former Colorado GOP chairman Steve Curtis.

The latest episode of Colorado Republican True Crime Stories™ picks up from a courtroom in Weld County, as KDVR FOX 31’s Rob Low reports:

Just weeks before the 2016 presidential election, Steve Curtis told his radio listeners, “Virtually every case of voter fraud that I can remember in my lifetime was committed by Democrats or do I not have the facts?”

Now Curtis, the chairman of Colorado’s Republican party in the late 1990s and a former talk show host for KLZ-560 AM, is on trial in a Weld County courtroom, charged with felony forgery [and] misdemeanor election fraud.

The 58-year-old is accused of forging his ex-wife’s signature on her 2016 mail-in ballot after the couple divorced and she moved to South Carolina.

The latest reports shed more light on the case against former Colorado Republican Party chairman Steve Curtis, who appears to have been turned in for election fraud by his ex-wife after she contacted Weld County to find out how to cast her ballot–only to be told she already had. This evidently didn’t sit well with the former Mrs. Curtis, who was given a chance to make her estranged husband’s life miserable she could not refuse.

For everybody else, it’s another chance to make the point that Colorado Republicans seem to be the only people who actually commit election fraud in Colorado–which makes their endless hand-wringing about supposed “Democrat election fraud” awfully curious.

Crime in general for that matter. It’s a bit unsettling.

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Colorado SOS Promotes Dubious Voter Self-Suppression Effort

Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams’ press shop, which is headed by a former Denver Post reporter, runs a blog they use to promote all kinds of stories–some of which seem a little outside the SoS’s purview, but generally the reporter in question gets forgiven due to genial relations with both sides of the aisle.

Today, however, a post by state employee Julia Sunny promoting a political group’s project to “opt-out” voters from political ads is raising eyebrows, and questions about the appropriateness of this taxpayer-funded content:

Tired of receiving all those election calls even after you’ve voted? The “I Already Voted” initiative in Aurora is set to change that.

Founder Jon Haubert started the initiative for the benefit of both citizens and candidates to “reduce the number of unnecessary political advertisements at election time,” according to the “I Already Voted” website. It is designed to save campaigns from spending money on a voter who has already voted and saves the voter from receiving an overload of political ads.

Once you have voted, you can head over to the IAV website and submit your name, address, and date of birth. I Already Voted will then notify candidates, campaigns and media to stop targeting those voters. Haubert assures users that the information they submit will be safe….

The first problem here is that Jonathan Haubert is very, very far from a nonpartisan good Samaritan looking to altruistically make the process better. Haubert, a registered Republican and policy advisor to the conservative Heartland Institute, was a top aide to former Rep. Richard Pombo, one of Congress’ most notorious hard-right, anti-environment Republicans–and was accused of wide-ranging corruption as chair of the House Natural Resources Committee. That experience served Haubert well when he came to Colorado to help launch Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development (CRED), this state’s most notorious pro-energy industry political advocacy group.

And let’s be very clear about what Haubert’s goal is: reducing the volume of information distributed to voters about elections. “Opting out” of election information might sound attractive during the heat of election season, but it’s just not a good idea from any responsible civic perspective. Even if you’ve already personally voted, that information could be relevant to others you come into contact with. Perhaps more important depending on your own affiliations, the partisan operative running this program makes giving over any personal data inadvisable–unless you want to help the conservative political “industrial complex” improve their targeting of you for their own political ads, a side bonus to the primary goal of taking voters out of the information loop.

In short, this is nothing the Secretary of State should ever be promoting with state resources.

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Northglenn Mayoral Candidate: DON’T Get Out The Vote, Or Else

Readers are sounding the alarm over ominous-looking signs appearing in the north Denver bedroom-community suburb of Northglenn, as the clock ticks down toward next month’s municipal elections:

The signs tell Northglenn residents to “CALL POLICE” in the event that, as happens at least a few times on average in any contested election, “someone knocks on your door asking about your vote/ballot.” In the lower right corner of the sign is a gold seal marked “CERTIFIED,” but there’s no indication of exactly what is being “certified,” or by whom. There’s also nothing on these signs to indicate who may have paid for them to be printed and distributed around the city of Northglenn.

Or at least there wouldn’t be any indication of who paid for them, if we hadn’t also received this photo:

Oops! Sorry about that, Northglenn mayoral candidate Carol Dodge, but whoever is putting out your campaign’s official yard signs needs to be more discreet about…you know, those other signs! It’s been suggested to us that this is Wayne Dodge’s truck, Carol’s spouse and owner of Northglenn’s Dodge Sign Company on East 112th Avenue. We have no way of confirming that detail, but it’s fairly obvious that her campaign is involved.

In any event, it should go without saying that these signs are almost comically unethical, plainly meant to disrupt the normal get-out-the-vote operations common to every municipal election. The fact that Dodge’s campaign is putting up signs like this indicates they aren’t running a field campaign of their own, since she’s telling people to call the cops on field campaigns. That means Dodge is simply not bothering with of the most important tools in a small election, and hoping this ridiculous attempt at intimidation will nullify the enormous handicap that creates for her campaign.

But in case you were in any way unclear–no, dear readers, it is not against the law for get-out-the-vote canvassers to knock on your door. If you call the police on canvassers who politely knock and leave when you ask them to, the canvassers will not be arrested. If anything, you might earn yourself a false reporting charge depending on what you accuse them of. More likely the police will explain all of this on the phone, and then move on to more important matters.

And this will go down as one of the cheaper tricks in Colorado political history.

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Jena Griswold Gets EMILY’s List Endorsement in SoS Race

Jena Griswold, Democratic candidate for Secretary of State.

A press release from Democratic Secretary of State candidate Jena Griswold today announces an important box checked on her way to becoming a legitimate candidate for Colorado Secretary of State in 2018: the endorsement of EMILY’s List, the go-to organization supporting Democratic women running for office:

Today, Emily’s List announced its endorsement of Jena Griswold for Colorado Secretary of State. Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock explained, “With civil rights and voting rights under attack, Colorado needs a progressive secretary of state now more than ever. Jena will do what needs to be done to stand up to Donald Trump, protect Coloradans’ privacy rights, increase transparency around campaign finance, and bolster the state’s cybersecurity in elections. We are proud to join Jena as she works to bring bold and progressive leadership to the Colorado secretary of state’s office.”

In addition to Emily’s List, Griswold has secured the endorsements of over 60 state leaders including Secretary Ken Salazar, Mayor Wellington Webb, Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman, and Majority Leader KC Becker…

Griswold stated, “I am honored to have the support of Emily’s List, a driving force in electing women to office. Emily’s List is supporting a new generation of leaders, who will safeguard our democracy and put an end to recent attacks on our civil rights and democratic institutions. I am proud to have the organization’s endorsement, and it is an honor to be running to be Colorado’s first democratic woman Secretary of State.”

As we’ve said previously, EMILY’s List is more than a pro forma endorsement of whoever has two ‘X’ chromosomes. Support from EMILY’s list also means that a candidate has passed that organization’s own internal screening for viability–viability then enhanced by the organization’s valuable assistance with strategy and fundraising. The organization’s choice in the race became clearer once it became apparent that Denver elections director Amber McReynolds would not be running as some had expected.

We’ve been hard on Griswold as we tend to be universally, but with her commendable fundraising efforts and now outside resources taking note, she’s doing everything she can to make this a race worth paying attention to.

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Colorado Election System Was Targeted by Russian Hackers

President Trump with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on May 10 at the White House.

Ernest Luning has some breaking news this afternoon on Russian election hacking attempts in Colorado:

Russian hackers tried without success to get into Colorado’s computerized voter system before last year’s election, officials with the Colorado secretary of state’s office said Friday.

The Department of Homeland Security informed Secretary of State Wayne Williams’ office in a phone call before noon that Colorado was among states targeted last summer by hackers earlier identified as Russians — contrary to what DHS officials told Williams earlier this year — but stressed that the hackers didn’t get into the state’s electronic voter data system, Gary Zimmerman, chief of staff for the secretary of state’s office, told Colorado Politics.

“They confirmed we are one of the 21 states where intelligence sources — they didn’t tell us what those were — advised they detected scanning activity here in Colorado,” Zimmerman said. “The analogy would be if somebody went to your home and jiggled the windows and the door handles to see if any were unlocked. That’s what scanning is. At the same time, DHS also confirmed there is absolutely no evidence they penetrated our systems or network.”

The DHS official who informed Zimmerman of the attempted breach only found out Colorado was among the targeted states “an hour or so before we did,” Zimmerman said. “Apparently this information was known in September or October of lat year,” he added, although he couldn’t say whether anyone within DHS had that knowledge.

We’ll update this story as necessary; here’s more from NPR on how and why DHS today informed the 21 states about hacking concerns.

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Must-Read: Dive Deep Into Redistricting Smoke and Mirrors

Earlier this month, a renewed effort to “reform” the state’s process for redistricting and reapportionment of Colorado’s congressional and state legislative districts respectively–a reboot of a redistricting ballot measure that the courts threw off the 2016 ballot. The group of former legislators and other public officials behind the effort haven’t changed much from last year, being led by former GOP House Speaker Frank McNulty and including others like former Rep. Kathleen Curry–who disaffiliated from the Democratic Party before losing a bid re-election as an unaffiliated candidate.

One of the major reasons the last initiative failed was a perceived failure on the part of organizers, while claiming the effort was “bipartisan” and aimed at including all stakeholders, to include large portions of the community in the process of developing the initiative. Voting and civil rights organizations complained that the plan would limit minority representation in the redistricting process. In the end the initiative for 2016 was disqualified because the Colorado Supreme Court determined its scope to be to broad for the state’s “single subject” requirement.

Yesterday, the Colorado Independent’s Corey Hutchins posted a must-read recap of last year’s failed effort, and how it morphed into the so-called “Fair Districts Colorado” campaign currently taking shape. And although the packaging has been updated, it doesn’t seem like the product has gotten any better. We can’t excerpt the whole story, so make sure you click through and read the whole thing:

A coalition that launched a revamped plan it says would take partisanship out of how state and federal political districts are drawn is facing suspicions about its motives in a state with a bitter history that has left its district maps stained with bad blood…

In Colorado, this redistricting plan isn’t new— but readers could be forgiven for thinking so.

Initial write-ups on the proposal in mainstream newspapers and the alternative press did not point out that the effort isn’t new. The plan is similar to one put forward in 2015 and 2016 by some of the same people involved in this latest effort.

…Knocked down last year, the group — then called End Gerrymandering Now — vowed it would try again. It included former GOP House Speaker Frank McNulty and former GOP Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, as well as former Democratic Secretary of State Bernie Buescher, PR pro Rich Coolidge, and ex-lawmaker Kathleen Curry, a Democrat who later became unaffiliated.

All of them are working on this new proposal in a campaign they are now calling Fair Districts Colorado. They launched a new website last week…

Across the nation there is a plausible case to be made that congressional and state legislative districts in many states have been skewed to favor the party in charge of the process. Because Republicans made big gains in state legislative races across the nation in 2010, adding to control they already enjoyed in many state houses, this has frequently meant districts drawn to favor the Republican Party–with attendant consequences that include suppression of traditionally Democratic communities of color.

But not in Colorado. In our state, an era of Democratic dominance in state legislative politics that began with 2004’s “Colorado Model” takeover of the General Assembly put Democrats in charge. In the 2011 redistricting/reapportionment process, two different drafting and approval processes tried to balance the statutory and constitutional requirements of new district maps with an unwritten priority of keeping districts as competitive as possible. If you followed the high-drama but ultimately successful 2011 process in Colorado, and witnessed the results in subsequent elections carried in the redrawn districts–featuring races all over the state hotly contested to the bitter end and decided by hundreds of votes–you can see the wisdom of their approach gainfully at work.

And above all, the maps drawn in 2011 for Colorado haven’t been that bad for the party out of power when they were drawn. The proof of that is as easy to find as Colorado’s majority Republican congressional delegation and control of the state senate. Are we saying the process in Colorado can’t be improved upon? Of course not. But it’s a lot better than the horror-story gerrymandered states people read about. And that’s a point voters in Colorado need to understand.

Which brings us back to End Gerrymandering Now “Fair Districts Colorado,” and the usual suspects fronting the renewed effort to “fix” our system:

(more…)

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Hey, Another Dumb Redistricting Effort!

Here we go again.

Back in late 2015, there was a short-lived “bipartisan” [cough, cough] attempt at putting forward a redistricting initiative for the 2016 ballot. This boneheaded proposal stumbled out of the blocks and was quickly abandoned because it would have actually dis-empowered voters of color and created new legislative and congressional districts that were actually less competitive than they are now.

Many of the same people behind that effort — which was briefly known as “Initiative 55” — are back with another set of proposals to change the process of redistricting and reapportionment, and it’s still a jumbled mess. When we say that this is the same group of people, we mean that literally; one of the issue committee that supported “Initiative 55” was called “End Gerrymandering Now!” and has just been renamed “Fair Districts Colorado.”

This new redistricting/reapportionment effort includes three ballot proposals — two statutory changes and one Constitutional measure — all of which run into similar problems when you look at the details. We certainly wouldn’t argue that our current system for drawing district boundaries is in great shape, but if you don’t make the right changes in a new proposal you run the very real risk of making things worse than they are now. That’s exactly the problem with these new proposals. As Brian Eason reports for the Denver Post:

The attempt comes at a time when gerrymandering — the act of skewing district lines to favor one party or another — is under heightened scrutiny across the country. The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year agreed to hear a case out of Wisconsin, in which it will be asked to decide whether partisan gerrymandering disenfranchises voters in violation of the Constitution.

Members of the coalition, which calls itself Fair Districts Colorado, hope that more competitive districts will lead to more moderate politicians, who are more accountable to voters.

Every 10 years new boundaries are drawn for state and federal legislative districts in order to account for population changes reflected in the annual U.S. Census. Exactly how this process is handled varies from state to state, but the general rationale for most groups trying to change the process is to create more competitive seats that aren’t largely decided by partisan primaries. The weird thing about this new effort from “Fair Districts Colorado” is that the measures specifically rank competitiveness at the bottom of the list of factors that should be considered when drawing new boundaries.

And just who gets to ultimately draw the new maps under these proposals? That’s the other strange part: Essentially-anonymous staff members are directed to create the new boundaries behind closed doors with no public transparency or communication with a nonpartisan redistricting commission. What could go wrong?!?

Redistricting/reapportionment is a complicated issue. With substantial revisions, perhaps the “Fair Districts Colorado” proposals could be workable solutions. As they currently stand, however, it’s more likely that they would just make things worse.

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Amber McReynolds Moves Toward SoS Bid

Word of a possible new Democratic entry into the 2018 Colorado Secretary of State’s race could spark new interest in a critically important but underappreciated statewide downballot office, one that Democrats have tried and failed to win for a number of years. Amber McReynolds, the current Director of Election for the Denver County Clerk and Recorder’s office, is reportedly well down the path of discussions to determine if she should challenge incumbent Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

McReynolds, who is currently unaffiliated but would likely register as a Democrat for this race, would represent a departure from previous candidates with mostly legislative or other political experience; an elections professional from the state’s foremost county clerk’s office–more in the mold of successful Republican candidates for Secretary of State like Donetta Davidson and…well, yes, incumbent Secretary of State Wayne Williams. There’s an argument that a challenger from a position of competency like another well-known elections official would represent a better challenger to Williams, who has prided himself on running as smooth and uncontroversial a ship as possible.

That was of course made much more difficult by Williams’ very poor handling of the recent request from the Trump administration’s so-called Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, voicing support for an effort that even most Republican secretaries of state think is a waste of time and resources. Williams’ initially confusing statements about what data was bring provided resulted in thousands of Colorado voters un-registering in an act of misguided protest. Since then Williams has tried to walk back that gaffe while reaffirming the integrity of our state’s elections, but for lay political news consumers in Colorado the damage is arguably done.

So yes, we’d say there is an opening here–to win an office that has bedeviled Democrats for longer than most of us have been doing politics in Colorado. And if she does get in, McReynolds could be just the candidate Democrats need to make the most of it.

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Half of Republicans Would Support Postponing 2020 Election?

There are very real consequences of Donald Trump’s claims of voter fraud in the 2016 election. As the Washington Post reports, a good number of Republicans actually believe the President on this nonsense:

Critics of President Trump have repeatedly warned of his potential to undermine American democracy. Among the concerns are his repeated assertions that he would have won the popular vote had 3 to 5 million “illegals” not voted in the 2016 election, a claim echoed by the head of a White House advisory committee on voter fraud.

Claims of large-scale voter fraud are not true, but that has not stopped a substantial number of Republicans from believing them. But how far would Republicans be willing to follow the president to stop what they perceive as rampant fraud? Our recent survey suggests that the answer is quite far: About half of Republicans say they would support postponing the 2020 presidential election until the country can fix this problem… [Pols emphasis]

…Not surprisingly, beliefs about the 2016 election and voter fraud were correlated with support for postponement. People who believed that Trump won the popular vote, that there were millions of illegal votes in 2016, or that voter fraud is not rare were more likely to support postponing the election. This support was also more prevalent among Republicans who were younger, were less educated, had less factual knowledge of politics and strongly identified with the party.

It apparently doesn’t matter much to these people that election officials all across the country have said for a long time that there is no evidence of widespread election fraud. Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams has been adamant in this position, and there is no actual data to support claims of voter fraud from Trump or his bogus “Voter Fraud Commission.”

As Newsweek reported last week, Trump’s “Voter Fraud Commission” doesn’t even really know why it exists:

The commission investigating President Donald Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2016 election doesn’t know what it hopes to achieve, said one of its members Monday.

Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, who serves on President Trump’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, said that he will reject the federal government’s second round of calls to states to submit voter registration data to the group.

Dunlap told the Portland Press Herald Monday that he’s concerned the commission hasn’t made its aims clear and that he’s worried about voters’ privacy.

Both state and national reports have failed to come up with any evidence of widespread voter fraud (including a 2014 report by the Presidential Commission on Election Administration). On the very rare occasion that fraud is discovered here in Colorado, it is almost always perpetrated by Republicans.

Trump has not actually suggested that the 2020 election should/could be postponed, but it is frightening to know that there are a sizable number of Republicans who wouldn’t blink if he did.

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Colorado Voter Protest Gets Spun Into Crazytown

Secretary of State Wayne Williams (R).

A controversy erupted last month over a request from the Trump administration’s so-called Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity for voter records from Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams. Along with most other states, Williams refused to turn over data considered nonpublic, include the last four digits of voters’ social security numbers and their complete birth dates. Unlike most states, Williams made a public statement in response to the commission’s request that did not criticize the effort’s highly dubious basis for existence–a difference that resulted in Colorado being inaccurately listed in media reports as one of the few states “cooperating” with the commission.

In response to widespread news reports about Williams providing data to the commission, some Colorado voters overreacted based on an incorrect understanding of what was happening. In truth all of the data being sent is already publicly available, and widely used by political organizations and candidates in their own campaigns. Despite this, several thousand Colorado voters took the drastic step of withdrawing their voter registrations entirely, with a smaller number opting to make their voter registrations confidential under a state law that allows this in cases where voters feel the information could pose a physical threat. It should be noted that un-registering does not remove a voter’s history from the permanent record, so this didn’t really accomplish anything other than to lodge a protest.

But folks, don’t tell that to the conservative mediasphere! They’re off and running with the latest conspiracy, typified by Townhall.com’s Wayne Allyn Root:

Thirty-four hundred Colorado citizens just quickly and quietly dropped off the voting rolls. I know the reason why. Because President Trump is investigating voter fraud in Colorado (and every other state too).

Those 3,400 ex-voters are illegal aliens. Until now they got away with voter fraud. But now we have a new sheriff in town. And they’re starting to get the message: If you’re illegal and you’re voting…

IT’S ADIOS AMIGO!

Where do you even start with this? Probably with the fact that un-registering wouldn’t prevent anyone who may have actually committed vote fraud from getting caught. These voters who un-registered weren’t trying to hide anything, because that’s not how the system works. They are angry about their information being part of a witch hunt, meant to perpetuate President Trump’s baseless allegations of voter fraud for the sole purpose of easing Trump’s upset over losing the popular vote by three million people.

And yes, as we said before, it wasn’t the right response–not least because of how vote-fraud conspiracy theorists interpreted it (see above). Their interpretation is nonsense, of course, but you can see how the actions of Colorado voters made it possible.

The second point that needs to be underscored is something that Secretary of State Wayne Williams himself finally did with his response to the commission last week–answering a question about the number of confirmed instances of voter fraud in Colorado going back almost two decades, Williams listed fewer than 20 cases in total out of millions of votes cast. Of Colorado’s election system in general, Williams told the commission:

“Elections are working well in Colorado,” Williams wrote to the commission. “By every relevant metric, our state ranks as a leader in election administration. Thanks to sound policy and the hard work of our 64 county clerks and recorders, Colorado is often ranked first and always ranked in the top five in the nation in both voter turnout and percentage of eligible Coloradans who are registered to vote.”

The best antidote to these allegations of fraud is the simple fact that the system works here. We can’t speak for every election system in every state, but in Colorado, despite continuous allegations made by Republican politicians and pundits, there is simply nothing to substantiate any of these claims. Our Republican Secretary of State, although he fumbled the first attempt to clear the air on this crucial point, will tell you so.

And Williams has more fellow Republicans he needs to tell–like the readers of Townhall.com.

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Beauprez-Backed Organization Still Fighting Court Ruling

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

It’s been three months since a Denver judge ordered Colorado Pioneer Action (CPA), a political committee run by former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez (R-CO), to pay a $17,735 fine for violating campaign finance laws and to register formally as political committee, requiring CPA to disclose its donors.

But Beauprez hasn’t produced the cash or the names of the donors. What’s up?

After Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Robert Spencer issued his ruling that CPA failed to register and file reports as a political committee during the last election, CPA appealed, and Matt Arnold of Campaign Integrity Watchdog (CIW), which brought the case against CPA, guesses the case won’t be heard for a few months, at the earliest.

After the appeal was filed, Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams’ office issued an “enforcement order and stay of action.”

“We have stayed the action in CPA pending appeal,” said Suzanne Staiert, Colorado Deputy Secretary of State (SOS), who signed the order, via email. “This is required under our rule. If CPA is unsuccessful, then our practice is to invoice for payment. We have no reason to believe that CPA would not pay if they lost the appeal.”

Arnold thinks Williams office should have invoiced CPA for the fine immediately after the ALJ decision, even though the case was appealed, telling me on Wednesday, “Upon imposition of the penalty, the Secretary of State should have immediately invoiced CPA for the fine, and it’s not discretionary.”

Luis Toro, Director of Colorado Ethics Watch, also reads the applicable SOS rule as only barring “enforcement actions (i.e., lawsuits to enforce the order in district court) and not referral to collections.”

“My opinion is that the Secretary has discretion to file or not file an enforcement action in district court, but that he does not have discretion to refrain from issuing a fine invoice and referring it to collections if unpaid – unless a stay is issued by the ALJ or the Court of Appeals,” Toro told me via email.

“The bottom line is that yes, unless the ALJ or the Court of Appeals issues a stay, the Secretary should send out an invoice for the unpaid fine and refer it to collections if not paid. But CIW is not prevented from filing its own enforcement lawsuit, and in fact that’s what the law contemplates when the Secretary fails to act to enforce an ALJ decision.”

Arnold is concerned that even if Beauprez loses his appeal, filed by high-powered Holland Hart, Williams won’t instruct the state collections office to get the funds from CPA.

Asked if her office has instituted a policy not to collect fines, Staiert wrote, “We do not have a policy ‘not to seek the collection of such fines’, rather we look at the assets of the committee to determine if collection is viable only after a failure to pay.”

Toro pointed out that the letter from Williams’ office “doesn’t say that Matt Arnold can’t file his own enforcement action, in fact, I read it as saying that he can do so.”

The enforcement mechanism, which could compel CPA to pay its fine, register as a political committee, and disclose its donors, is a lawsuit in district court.

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Inauspicious Start for Colorado SOS Candidate

Jena Griswold, Democratic candidate for Secretary of State

Democrats have at least four candidates vying for Attorney General, and another four hoping to be the Party’s nominee for Congress in CD-6. Republicans have four or five candidates for State Treasurer now that Polly Lawrence has made her intentions known. Everybody and their mother is running for Governor.

Until today, the one high-profile race in 2018 that had yet to attract more than one candidate was for Secretary of State, where incumbent Republican Wayne Williams had been sailing along all by himself. Democrats now have a challenger for Williams, as the Denver Post reports:

A Democratic candidate for the state’s top elections job is calling Donald Trump’s voter fraud panel “a sham commission” and blasting Secretary of State Wayne Williams for his “rash decision” to comply.

“We need to call the commission what it is and be very careful about how we are dealing with the commission,” said Jena Griswold, a former voting rights attorney for the Obama campaign and member of Gov. John Hickenlooper’s administration.

Griswold, a 32-year-old from Louisville, filed paperwork Wednesday to challenge the Republican incumbent in the 2018 election.

And who, you may ask, is Jena Griswold? Let’s go back to the Post story for the answer:

Griswold’s passion for elections law blossomed when she joined the 2012 Obama campaign’s team of voter protection attorneys. She later served as Hickenlooper’s Washington, D.C., liaison, working to help get federal emergency recovery dollars after the devastating 2013 floods.

Now she works as outside counsel to a company she wouldn’t name [Pols emphasis] and works on public policy issues as part of her firm, Griswold Strategies.

Gah!

There are a lot of tough questions in politics. “Who do you work for?” is not one of them.

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Trump Vote Fraud Witch Hunt Stopped Cold, For Now

Secretary of State Wayne Williams (R).

CBS4’s Stan Bush reporting–the somewhat overblown yet vexing controversy over the Trump administration’s so-called Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity’s request for voter data from the states, for the purpose of investigating Trump’s unfounded claims of “millions” of fraudulent votes cast in the 2016 elections, was but on the back burner yesterday after a temporary restraining order halted the commission’s work:

A series of lawsuits are forcing the Trump White House to slam the breaks on a controversial request for voter data across the country.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center has requested a temporary restraining order against the Trump administration. In response, the White House sent emails to election officials across the country asking for no data to be sent, including data that is publicly available.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams says his office will not send data until the administration formally requests it again. [Pols emphasis]

“It is a win that people have been pushing back on this because they understand what this is about,” says ACLU of Colorado Executive Director Nathan Woodliff-Stanley.

It’s anybody’s guess whether these pending lawsuits will put a permanent end to this widely derided commission, but this pause should give folks a chance to catch their breath after a wild week of press that resulted in hundreds of Colorado voters withdrawing their voter registrations in a wrongheaded attempt to deny Trump’s commission their information. Now first of all, that doesn’t work–the fact that you were a registered voter, your publicly available data and voter history don’t go away just because you un-register. And secondly, more importantly, un-registering to vote is a monumentally stupid and counterproductive thing to do on general principles.

Last week’s spate of un-registrations seems to have been a misinformed response to news reports about voters making their voter data confidential–or maybe they just decided not to bother with that more complicated process. Whatever the cause, the numbers involved raised considerable alarm with voting rights and GOTV groups. As we have said from the beginning, all the data in question here is already public, and the criticism of Williams is that he didn’t refute Trump’s unfounded claims of massive election fraud this time like he did last fall before Trump won the election. Nothing about this request or Williams’ response ever really justified even making one’s voter data confidential, let alone withdrawing one’s voter registration entirely.

Because the voters affected by this situation are generally liberal Democrats opposed to Trump, these un-registrations could be considered a partisan victory for the GOP before the commission even gets underway–although for Williams’ reputation as a fair public official that would be an unfortunate development. We would hope that Williams takes advantage of the pause afforded by this restraining order and does something to persuade voters who withdrew to re-register.

They should at least get a postcard that the witch hunt has been postponed indefinitely.

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Pique With Williams Over Voter Data Gets Way Out of Hand

Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

As Denver7’s Blair Miller reports, anger at Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams over his praise for a dubious “voter fraud” commission President Donald Trump has established to investigate his equally dubious claims of “millions” of fraudulent votes cast in last year’s elections has teamed up with anger’s friend misinformation–to produce an outcome in a small but growing number of cases that we don’t think anyone wants.

Except for those who want liberal registered voters to voluntarily un-register to vote.

At least two Colorado county clerks say they’ve seen a large increase in the number of people who have withdrawn their state voter registration since Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams said he would send the Trump administration’s election integrity commission some voter-roll information in accordance with state law.

Alton Dillard, a spokesperson for the Denver Elections Division, said 180 people have withdrawn their registration in the county since July 3. When compared to the eight people who withdrew their registration from June 26-29, it marks a 2,150 percent increase, according to Dillard.

Haley McKean, a spokeswoman with the Arapahoe County Clerk and Recorders Office said at least 160 people had withdrawn their registrations since July 1. She added that “dozens” of others had made their voter registration confidential.

The Adams County Clerk’s Office said “about 30 to 40” people were withdrawing their registrations each day over the past week. The Douglas County Clerk’s Office says it hasn’t had anyone withdraw their registration, however.

Let’s start with the most important fact: as we have said over and over since this controversy arose last week, the data that Williams is turning over to Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s commission is already publicly available to anyone who requests it. It has been available for many years in electronic form, updated regularly with data from the county clerks. This is data that is already in the hands of, in addition to state government, innumerable political and commercial organizations who have already digested it, augmented it, and rendered from it a detailed profile of your life, opinions, and economic decisions. By any reasonable analysis, there is absolutely nothing to be afraid of with regard to data that is not just public but highly ubiquitous.

The problem, as we have attempted to be clear about from the beginning, is the lack of any criticism from Williams of the commission’s request or its rational basis for existence. This is important because Williams’ office commendably stood up to Trump’s campaign-trail warnings of impending fraud in last year’s elections, explaining over and over that there was absolutely no evidence in Colorado’s electoral history to justify Trump’s wild claims. Understand that this wasn’t just some altruistic move on Williams’ part; there was significant concern among Republican campaign operatives at this time that Trump’s vote fraud clamoring could suppress GOP turnout in the election. But it was still the right thing to do–and Williams’ failure to stand up to Kobach’s commission now that Trump is President, as so many other Secretaries of State in both parties did, invites criticism that Williams’ principles didn’t survive the election.

With all of this in mind, this week we cited a Colorado Independent story that asked county clerks about a provision in state law that allows voters to make their file data confidential. Although this provision is specifically intended to help crime victims, police officers, and others who have a reasonable fear of physical violence or harassment to make their address somewhat more difficult to find in public records, the clerks told the Independent that they don’t verify the circumstances that applicants attest to.

Literally within minutes of publishing that blog post, we began hearing from friends who work on campaigns, nonprofit advocacy groups, and others who use the voter file as a central component of their outreach planning. And they were, we’ll let your imagination paint the picture, very unhappy that presumably left-of-center voters were being encouraged to take themselves out of the loop in terms of voter outreach. We updated the story later in the day to reflect their well-founded concern. But it didn’t matter, that evening most TV news stations ran stories about how to make your voter data confidential because Williams is giving it to Trump, and the proverbial game of telephone took it from there.

Bottom line: although Williams comes in for plenty of criticism for validating a commission denounced from both sides of the aisle as a “witch hunt,” making your voter data confidential without a good reason does more harm than good any way you look at it–in addition to being potentially perjurious. And obviously, obviously, voluntarily un-registering to vote, simply because Williams is giving over information everybody already has, is asinine in the extreme. Please tell everyone you know to not do either one, even if they look at you like you’re stupid. You never know when they’ll get the chain email or see the Facebook fake news.

Self-suppressing your vote is not now and will never be the answer to vote suppression. If we were at any point unclear about this fundamental principle, we apologize.

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Good news! July 1-7, 2017

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

This diary is about small victories, local heroes, sweet stories, random kindnesses, unexpected grace, cold justice served up on a hot plate. As always, your interpretation of what is “good news” is probably different than mine, and categories often overlap.

Attorneys General across the country (including Colorado’s Coffman)  are claiming that they will check Big Pharma’s pushing of opiods, “clear the swamp”, ensure fair voting, and protect transgender people. AGs be aware – people will check to see that you follow through on your promises.

Voting rights roundup

flag with I voted

Image by debaird on flikr

Fourth of July, Fireworks, and the Franchise – what could be more patriotic? Voting seems to be on everyone’s minds right now.

Alabama seeks to inform felons of restored voting rights in jail

Kentucky also ordered the voting rights of 284 felons to be restored.

Kris Kobach, Vice-Chair of Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Voter Integrity,  requested that all 50 states send him their voter information by July 14 so that the Commission can create a national voter registry to prevent what he claims is rampant voter fraud.

Unfortunately, rather than creating a process to make it easier for voters to register and vote, the Commission’s goal appears to be to selectively disenfranchise voters. The good news is that 45 states now have refused to provide part or all of the information requested. President Trump is not pleased, and has let us know this in his usual way.

Alison Lundergan Grimes, KY Secretary of State said that there is  “not enough bourbon in Kentucky” to make  Trump’s request seem sensible.

Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann suggested that, “They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi is a great state to launch from…”

Floridians are also petitioning to restore voting rights to felons.

Colorado’s Secretary of State Wayne Williams is trying to have it both ways  –  comply with Trump’s request, while still protecting the privacy of Colorado voters by supplying only publicly available information. Many voters are choosing to keep their data confidential by filing a form and paying $5 at the Secretary of State’s Office.

Voters seldom commit fraud in Colorado – but when they do, they are usually Republicans.

(more…)

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