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.

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.

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)

“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.

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.

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…)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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…)

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.