Yes Colorado, Post Card Palooza Was One Giant Setup

Meet the pitcher and the catcher.

This afternoon, as Ernest Luning of the Colorado Springs Gazette’s political blog reports, the other shoe dropped in a situation we’ve been following for a number of days–an erroneous story at CBS4 Denver about post cards sent to non-voters outlining eligibility requirements to register to vote, since deleted, which has caused a nationwide wave of misplaced anxiety on the right, “confirming” their groundless fears that mail ballots are an impending disaster:

U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, the chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, on Tuesday demanded an explanation about allegations contained in a TV news story that was retracted over the weekend concerning a mailing sent to potential voters by Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat…

CBS4 news director Tim Wieland pulled the story Sunday afternoon and replaced it later that night with an interview with Griswold meant to “[set] the record straight,” but not until after conservative news outlets and Republican personalities had blown up the misleading account across the internet.

The Denver Post’s Justin Wingerter:

U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, who chairs the Colorado Republican Party, has asked the Justice Department and Federal Election Commission to investigate postcards sent by the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office, the latest escalation in a dispute that began with a debunked and retracted television news story.

“The American people deserve to know that the 2020 election will be conducted in a fair and transparent manner,” Buck wrote to the federal officials Wednesday. “As such, I urge the DOJ and FEC to open an investigation into the Colorado Secretary of State’s efforts to register individuals who are ineligible to vote.”

Somewhere in here, Buck either became or always was fully aware that this entire story was wrong. If he needed any further confirmation, he could have asked Republican Secretaries of State Wayne Williams and Scott Gessler–both of whom sent similar post cards during their own terms in office. From Luning’s story:

[Betsy Hart, the secretary of state’s communications director] added that the election information postcard was first sent out using a similarly compiled list by Griswold’s GOP predecessor Scott Gessler, and former Secretary of State Wayne Williams, also a Republican, continued the practice through his four-year term. [Pols emphasis]

Given that this entire nontroversy is based on a news report which has been retracted by the original outlet, a fact which every subsequent story has been diligent in noting, Buck’s request for a formal investigation into the Colorado Secretary of State by the Justice Department isn’t off to what you’d call a good start. In fact, barreling forward with this grandstand regardless of what facts emerge subsequently is a pretty good indicator that it was all a setup.

And the timing isn’t the only thing that looks canned:

Buck said the state party heard from a woman who received the postcard addressed to her late mother, who died in 2016 and hadn’t lived in the state since 1967. [Pols emphasis]

Flashback to the now-deleted original CBS4 report from Shaun Boyd:

Karen Anderson says she opened her mail about a week ago to find one of the postcards. It was addressed to her mom.

“Which sounds really nice except my mother has been dead four years and she hasn’t lived, voted, owned property, worked, or done anything other than visit Colorado since 1967.” [Pols emphasis]

That would be, barring a remarkable coincidence, the same person.

While this isn’t enough to prove that Buck and the state GOP are the ones who shopped this bogus story to CBS4 to begin with, it’s pretty likely the case based on the available information. It looks to us like Buck engineered the original story for the purpose of justifying his groundless investigation request to the Justice Department against Colorado’s Secretary of State–and when the story fell apart due to lacking a factual basis, Buck simply carried on with his plan.

The bottom line is the same, and it will be the same no matter how many times it needs to be repeated: this post card wasn’t sent to anyone on the “voter rolls.” Eligibility requirements to vote have not changed. As much as Republicans, even Colorado Republicans who are supposed to know better wish it were so, there is no scandal.

Only partisan distractions, boosted by bad journalism.

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Shaun Boyd, CBS4 Denver Still Missing the Point

CBS4 Disinformation Political Specialist Shaun Boyd, still missing the point.

Over the weekend, CBS4 Denver News Director Tim Wieland took the unusual — but correct –step of removing a story from its website because it was factually inaccurate.

On Sunday, CBS4 Denver and Shaun Boyd published a DIFFERENT story about its own erroneously-reported news from a few days earlier. Look at this headline:

“Colorado’s Secretary Of State Sets The Record Straight On Voter Registration Postcards”

The only “record” that needed to be set straight was the false one created by Boyd on Friday, but Boyd’s new lede doesn’t make that at all clear:

Secretary of State Jena Griswold is trying to clear up any confusion after a story by CBS4 about a voter registration mailing by her office.

This would have been a better lede: Secretary of State Jena Griswold explains why a previous CBS4 Denver story was totally wrong. 

While this new CBS4 story is obviously a sort of mea culpa to the Colorado Secretary of State’s (SOS) office, Boyd’s framing hasn’t changed much from her original nonsense narrative:

The mailing she’s referring to says: “Our records indicate that you or a member of your household may be eligible to vote but do not appear to be registered at your current address.” It goes on to delineate the qualifications to vote: 18 years of age, U.S. citizen and Colorado resident at least 22 days before the election.

As CBS4 reported last week, about a dozen of the postcards — that we know of — went to people who were not citizens or deceased. [Pols emphasis]

Some people got a postcard with information that doesn’t apply to them. So what?

The inference here is that the SOS office is encouraging non-citizens and dead people to vote in the 2020 election, but this is a silly projection that has no factual basis. Encouraging people to register to vote in no way ensures that they will then register to vote or be eligible to do so. Perhaps Boyd is the sort of person who receives a letter from Publishers Clearing House that says “you may have won $1 million dollars” and immediately assumes that she did, in fact, become a millionaire overnight. Alas, receiving a piece of mail — whether you were meant to receive it or not — does not provide you with any special abilities or advantages that you didn’t have before you opened your mailbox.

This vague “voter fraud” inference is, unfortunately, exactly what Republicans such as Donald Trump, Jr. are eager to promote. Take a look at this Tweet from right-wing nonsense provocateur George Brauchler:

Boyd’s false reporting encourages nitwits like Brauchler to break out their Twitter machines and cry out “fraud,” but it doesn’t change the very important fact that NON-CITIZENS AND DEAD PEOPLE CAN’T REGISTER TO VOTE (for that matter, dead people also can’t read a postcard that was erroneously mailed to their former residence). As Ian Silverii of ProgressNow Colorado explained via Twitter:

Voter fraud in Colorado and the rest of the United States is virtually nonexistent (in the 2016 election, there were four documented cases of voter fraud out of about 138 million votes cast, which works out to about 0.00000003 percent). Christopher Wray, the Director of the FBI, testified in front of the Senate Homeland Security Committee LAST WEEK and reaffirmed the safety of our elections:

“Now, we have not seen, historically, any kind of coordinated national voter fraud effort in a major election, whether it’s by mail or otherwise.”

It is nice that CBS4 Denver allowed SOS Jena Griswold the opportunity to correct their own misinformation, but this second story does not fix the original mistake. This is just doubling-down on bad journalism with more bad journalism.

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Take Trump’s Advice? Jena Griswold Says She’ll Lock You Both Up

Donald Trump.

As the Denver Post’s David Migoya reports, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold responded with emphasis to last week’s suggestion by President Donald Trump that voters in North Carolina cast both mail and in-person ballots, meaning vote twice, which is in case you didn’t already know this is a crime everywhere including in Colorado:

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold said Monday she would consider referring President Donald Trump for prosecution in cases where double-voting is suspected in the state.

In the latest salvo against Trump and his call for voters to test the integrity of election systems by casting both mail-in and in-person ballots, Griswold tweeted that her office is serious about combating voter fraud…

“It’s important to underline to the president and the U.S. attorney general and anyone who is confused that it’s illegal to double vote,” Griswold told The Denver Post in an interview Monday. “We have safeguards in place, including signature verification, laws on ballot collection, and checking the participation in other states. If the president is causing people to vote twice, he could be partially to blame and we’ll explore the options if it happens.”

As we all learned again exhaustively during the impeachment proceedings, a sitting President can’t be criminally prosecuted, but assuming Trump becomes a private citizen in January it’s certainly possible that Trump could find himself criminally liable for this and any number of other misdeeds–as Rep. Ken Buck sussed out himself in questioning special prosecutor Robert Mueller. It’s fair to note that objectively speaking, encouraging voters to commit election fraud could find itself down the list of prosecutable offenses.

Republicans like Sen. Cory Gardner commonly downplay Trump’s rhetorical outrages by claiming it doesn’t matter, and Trump “blowing off steam” doesn’t do any real-world harm. This becomes a more difficult pretense to maintain when the President instructs his supporters in detail to commit felonies, and reminds us as he did after he told “his people” to “slow the testing down” that he never makes jokes.

Here’s another fair warning: don’t try it, at least not on Jena Griswold’s watch.

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Goddamn Right I’m Sabotaging The Postal Service, Says Trump

MONDAY UPDATE: WTF?

—–

U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.

National Public Radio reports on an admission so jaw-dropping it could only be…an average Thursday in Donald Trump’s train wreck presidency:

While President Trump has long railed against mail-in voting, falsely claiming it leads to rampant fraud, he appeared to confirm Thursday morning that he opposes Democrats’ proposed boost in funding for the U.S. Postal Service because he wants to make it harder to expand voting by mail…

“They [the Democrats] want three and a half billion dollars for something that’ll turn out to be fraudulent — that’s election money basically,” Trump said.

Continued the president: “They want $25 billion for the post office. Now, they need that money in order to have the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots. Now, in the meantime, they aren’t getting there. But if they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting because they’re not equipped to have it.” [Pols emphasis]

First of all, there is no proposal for “universal mail-in voting” at the federal level. For all the discussion about migrating to a mail ballot system during the COVID-19 pandemic, only two additional states have switched to primarily mail ballots in addition to the six states including Colorado that already conduct mail ballot elections.

Trump’s characteristically frank admission that he opposes more money for the U.S. Postal Service because he doesn’t want USPS to be able to handle mail ballots is fully consistent with the reports of new policies within the Postal Service that are slowing down the delivery of mail across the country–policies put in place by Trump’s newly appointed postmaster general Louis DeJoy, a campaign donor and supporter. Taken together, these clearly point to an agenda by the Trump administration to deliberately harm the USPS–and blame any resultant election chaos on the mail ballots Trump is determined without evidence to vilify in advance for his expected defeat at the polls in November.

As you can imagine, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold is pretty upset…

 

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SoS Griswold Goes To Bat For Ballot Boxes

Denver ballot box.

NPR reported yesterday that mail ballot collection boxes, which have proven highly popular among Colorado voters–and that’s before President Donald Trump started monkey-wrenching the U.S. Postal Service coincidentally just a few months before an election he insists without factual basis will be defraudulated by mail ballots:

Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett…told the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration recently that his state doesn’t allow drop boxes for fear voters might be pressured to vote a certain way.

“If someone knows you’ve got an absentee ballot, they can say, ‘Hey I’ll be glad to take that for you and drop that off for you.’ They can ask to watch you fill that ballot out or they cannot turn it in at all for you,” Hargett said. “We believe it’s a great security measure to have someone returning their own ballot by the United States Postal Service.”

The Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign have even gone to court to try to block Pennsylvania from using such boxes in November, arguing they could increase the chances for fraud.

CNN:

[Drop boxes] been pretty much uncontroversial, said Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill.

“They are strongly in favor, strongly in favor, because it gives them more options,” she said.

But in the battleground state of Pennsylvania, Republicans are already challenging the state’s use of drop boxes, arguing in a lawsuit that allowing ballots to be collected in the boxes “allows illegal absent and mail-in voting, ballot harvesting, and other fraud to occur and/or go undetected, and will result in dilution of validly cast ballots.”

Responding to this latest angle on the same old low-information fight over the logistics of mail ballots, which have been in uncontroversial and highly successful use in Colorado since 2013, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold tore into the Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign today for asserting without evidence what Colorado’s experience has already wrong:

“Colorado’s election model is the nation’s gold standard, and we use both mail ballots and ballot drop boxes,” said Secretary Griswold. “Mail ballot drop boxes are safe, secure, and add great access to voting. In fact, about 75% of mail ballot voters return their ballots to a drop box. Our use of drop boxes is even more crucial as the U.S. Postal Service is under attack.” [Pols emphasis]

…Colorado drop boxes are safe and secure. Drop boxes are sturdy, metallic, weather-resistant, and are bolted to the ground. Colorado law also requires that all drop boxes be kept under 24-hour video surveillance with adequate lighting in order to be able to easily detect potential tampering. When drop boxes are emptied, they are done so at least every 24 hours by a team of bipartisan election judges who must maintain a detailed chain of custody log when transporting ballots between drop boxes and the central counting facility to ensure no ballots are removed or added.

With budget cuts and other attacks on the U.S. Postal Service, [Pols emphasis] Colorado’s election model is uniquely insulated to withstand any service disruptions. Ballots are sent to voters starting 25 days before Election Day and voters are reminded that they must return their ballot via drop box instead of the mail within eight days of the election. In addition, during the 2020 legislative session, Secretary Griswold led the Colorado legislature to pass a law requiring replacement ballots be sent via first-class mail starting 11 days before Election Day.

With uncertainty growing about the reliability of a politicized U.S. Postal Service to support mail ballot elections that have gone off without a hitch year after year in Colorado, our state’s already very high utilization of ballot drop boxes at libraries, municipal offices, and other public locations could be an important countermeasure against shenanigans. Because there is no rational justification for the alarm that Trump and his surrogates are now raising about mail ballots, especially in Colorado where in our state’s successful history with mail ballots makes all of this talk look ridiculous, if there’s going to be a problem it’s increasingly clear that Trump is going to have to manufacture it.

In that event, Coloradans on both sides of the aisle will have an outsize role in stopping the madness.

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Steyer, Griswold Talk Vote Suppression (Elsewhere)

UPDATE: It’s been suggested, not unreasonably, that we should better acknowledge former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s large donations in support of Democratic campaigns–including a $50 million pledge this month to House Democrats following the vote to impeach President Donald Trump. Bloomberg and the other wealthy self-funding candidates in the primary have faced criticism over the potential diversion of scarce resources away from more viable Democratic priorities, and Bloomberg’s big check undeniably blunts some of that criticism–like Tom Steyer’s own $50 million pledge to youth GOTV efforts mentioned below.

We apologize if we unfairly slighted the efforts of any billionaire. All billionaires matter.

—–

Tom Steyer.

Colorado Public Radio’s Anthony Cotton reports on a town hall yesterday hosted by longshot self-funding Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer–and although Steyer’s signature issue remains human-caused climate change,

[S]peaking with about 100 voters Sunday in a Denver union hall, the environment barely came up.

Instead, the California hedge fund billionaire spoke about voter suppression across the country, and why race relations should be a greater focal point for the people running for the White House. At one point, on the topic of gun violence, he stopped the conversation to console a woman whose son was killed in a 2018 shooting…

Steyer appeared with Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold and Omar Montgomery, the runner-up to Mike Coffman in the 2019 Aurora mayoral election. Griswold also sponsored a town hall earlier in December with another Democratic presidential candidate, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

Wherever Tom Steyer winds up in the Democratic presidential primary–here’s our interview with Steyer from August shortly after he got in the race–the $50 million Steyer has pledged to youth voter mobilization efforts nationwide in 2020 is a huge investment in turnout that will undeniably benefit Democratic candidates up and down the ticket. In contrast to a certain other self-funding billionaire who came lately to the already stratified Democratic primary field, Steyer deserves credit for spending money on the common defense instead of, you know, pure hubris.

With respect to voter suppression, Colorado’s system is a model for facilitating access to the franchise, which is the exact opposite of the intent of Byzantine election laws in so many other states. Colorado’s combination of mail ballots and same-day voter registration removes fundamental roadblocks to voting that are used every election in other states to suppress “undesired” turnout. As a result Colorado’s voter turnout is consistently in the top couple of states. Absurd disinformation notwithstanding, Colorado’s success in making the vote accessible over repeated elections and Secretaries of State from both parties simply leaves no excuse for the rest of the country to not adopt similar laws. In the end, the only reason not to adopt Colorado’s election model is if you benefit politically from vote suppression.

That’s a message we’d be happy to see carried to the four corners of the land. Starting with Georgia.

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22 States Join Colorado To Stop “Faithless Electors”

A press release from Secretary of State Jena Griswold this afternoon:

Today, twenty-two states signed on to an amicus brief that underlines the urgency in Colorado’s petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review an unprecedented decision issued in August in Baca v. Colorado Department of State. The 10th Circuit decision states that Colorado cannot remove presidential electors if they fail to cast their ballots in accordance with state law, which requires presidential electors to cast their Electoral College ballots for the candidate who won the most votes in Colorado. Because the 10th Circuit’s ruling impedes Colorado’s ability to enforce state law and has the potential to undermine voters across the nation, Secretary of State Jena Griswold and Attorney General Phil Weiser have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case and protect Americans’ fundamental right to self-determination.

In filing the petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, Secretary Jena Griswold said the 10th Circuit’s decision, if upheld, “undermines voters and sets a dangerous precedent for our nation. Unelected and unaccountable presidential electors should not be allowed to decide the presidential election without regard to voters’ choices and state law.”

The states that signed onto the brief request are Alaska, California, Illinois, Mississippi, Maryland, Nevada, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arizona, New Mexico, Indiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Delaware, West Virginia, Virginia, South Carolina, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Tennessee, and Rhode Island.

“Having twenty-two states support our petition to the U.S. Supreme Court underlines the urgency of this matter. When Americans vote in the presidential election, we are exercising our most fundamental right – the right to self-governance and self-determination. We have to preserve that right. Without swift action by the Supreme Court, the foundation of our democracy is at risk,” said Griswold.

The appeals court decision last August in the Baca v. Colorado Department of State case sent a shock through many more state capitols than our own, since the ruling threatens to destabilize the entire Electoral College system used to elect Presidents since the founding of the Republic. Although the notion of “faithless electors” is not new and historically very rare, the heightened awareness of the power of the Electoral College after two presidential elections in the past 20 years were decided adverse to the winner of the nationwide popular vote–combined with a ruling enshrining the right of electors to go “faithless”–could make them a regular, unpredictable, and decidedly un-democratic component of future elections.

As we’ve discussed in this space, the decision also complicates the as-of-now stalled implementation of the state’s National Vote Compact law, which would assign the state’s electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. The Compact doesn’t have enough participating states to take effect, and the law in Colorado is under challenge via a statewide ballot question set for next November–but if the 10th Circuit’s ruling in this case prevails, NPV would be impossible to enforce here or anywhere else.

The one upside we can offer is that if the end result of this court battle is an Electoral College that no longer functions as the Founders intended, or no longer has the public’s confidence, it could result in the change the Electoral College’s opponents desire faster than any other means. We and everyone else with a stake in the outcome of presidential elections–meaning everybody–should be watching closely.

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Colorado’s “Faithless Elector” Question Heads For SCOTUS

KUNC’s Scott Franz reports:

Colorado is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up a case that could have big implications for future presidential elections.

Secretary of State Jena Griswold and Attorney General Phil Weiser are hoping the nation’s highest court will decide that presidential electors must follow state laws that require them to vote for the candidate who wins the most votes in the state.

The legal challenge comes after the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in August that former Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams was wrong to remove a presidential elector who refused to cast a vote for Hillary Clinton, who won the state’s popular vote in 2016.

An appeals court ruling in August which essentially held that members of the Electoral College have the inalienable right to vote for whoever they wish to be President of the United States, regardless of who a majority of the voters in their state supported. Although this ruling is plainly contrary to the spirit of democratic fairness and the individual franchise Americans take for granted, the fact is that it’s arguably fully consistent with the intention of the Founders–who very frankly saw the Electoral College system as a check against unbridled democratic majoritarianism. It’s only in recent years that the College has emerged as an undeniable advantage to Republicans, proving decisive against the majority vote in 2000 and again in 2016.

Secretary of State Jena Griswold and Attorney General Phil Weiser are no fans of the Electoral College, and both supported passage of this year’s National Popular Vote Compact legislation which is now being challenged via a citizen-referred repeal measure on the 2020 ballot. The NPV Compact in turn relies on the ability of states to enforceably bind electors to the results of the nationwide vote in order to work, and until the Electoral College ceases to exist it can only be defensibly do its job if individual voters have confidence that the Electoral College is carrying out their wishes.

Now, the Supreme Court will be obliged to either prop up the Electoral College by pulling the reins on the rights of Electors, or throwing the entire Electoral College system into chaos by destroying even an imaginary linkage between this arcane institution and the rights American voters think they have. Griswold and Weiser are doing what they have to to keep the system working–and we know they agree the solution in the end is for one person to receive one nationally equal vote in presidential elections.

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Jena Griswold Declines U.S. Senate Clown Car

Secretary of State Jena Griswold (D).

Late breaking this Friday evening, a press release from the Senate exploratory committee for Secretary of State Jena Griswold announcing a no-go on her possible run for the nomination to take on vulnerable Sen. Cory Gardner:

Today, Colorado’s Secretary of State Jena Griswold announced that she will not seek the Democratic nomination for US Senate, and remains committed to her work on voting rights, campaign finance reform, and ensuring Colorado continues to have the most secure elections in the nation. Griswold released the following statement:

“I was surprised and humbled when Coloradans began to approach me about running for the US Senate. I knew I needed to take this encouragement seriously and give it real consideration. After some heartfelt deliberation, I have decided that now is not the right time for me to run for the Senate. Last year, Coloradans gave me the honor of electing me to serve as their Secretary of State. Together, we’ve already passed bi-partisan reform to shine light on dark money, we’ve made it more accessible for Coloradans to vote, we lead the nation in election security, all of which makes Colorado a national model on democracy. I am moved by the encouragement I have received, and sincerely want to thank everyone for their support. I look forward to continuing to work to ensure that Coloradans have a democracy they can believe in.”

Griswold set up an exploratory committee after a July poll showed strong early support from Democratic primary voters. The committee raised over $200,000 in just 2 weeks.

It’s a wise decision for Secretary of State Griswold, who pole-vaulted out of obscurity to win a statewide Colorado election in 2018 and certainly has demonstrated the chops to run for higher office–after perhaps spending a little more time consolidating her position, and earning by experience the gravitas to match her considerable ambition. SoS Griswold is no doubt also aware of big changes in the Senate race on the horizon. Presiding over Colorado’s elections in a pivotal presidential year is a full-time job that deserves the full attention of a qualified public servant, and that’s where Griswold is best suited today.

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For SoS Griswold, Success Speaks Louder Than Trolls

Secretary of State Jena Griswold (D).

A press release today from the Colorado Secretary of State’s office celebrates the signing by Gov. Jared Polis of a package of bills that builds on Colorado’s already proud record of extremely high voter participation:

Today, Governor Jared Polis signed into law a package of legislation aimed at increasing access to and representation in our democracy. The new laws increase disclosure of political spending, expand automatic voter registration, increase voting access for all eligible Coloradans– including increased polling locations and drop boxes in the days leading up to and on Election Day — and guarantee polling locations or drop boxes on public universities and tribal lands. Campaign finance reform, expanded automatic voter registration, and improved access to voting for Coloradans were all priorities for Secretary of State Jena Griswold this year. Secretary Griswold worked with the legislature to advance this agenda.

“Colorado voters belong at the center of our democracy. These new laws will shine light on secret political spending; stop special-interests, corporations, and the well-connected from side-stepping the law; and increase access to voter registration and voting for all eligible Coloradans,” said Secretary Griswold. “I am proud of the work we accomplished with the legislature to help build a democracy that Coloradans can believe in, and further secure Colorado as a leader in election access and campaign finance transparency.”

As most of our readers know, Colorado presently has the second-highest rate of voter participation in the country, beat out only by the perennial do-gooders of the state of Minnesota. Automatic Voter Registration (Senate Bill 19-235) and two other bills expanding access to voter service centers and voters with disabilities, along with The Clean Campaign Act of 2019 (House Bill 19-1318) requiring more disclosure from SuperPACS and banning foreign spending on local elections all signed into law today, meant to build on that record of success while keeping disclosure laws up to date with the times.

Secretary Griswold took some silly-season fire last week after an open records request from Scott Gessler’s vindictive former deputy Suzanne Staiert revealed Griswold’s office had run a press release on Alabama’s controversial abortion ban by staff at Planned Parenthood for suggested edits–an incident ripe for wedge issue pearl-clutching, but in truth a routine occurrence on both sides in regular consultation with their friendly organizations. After Republican lawmakers run industry-authored “model” bills year after year and brag about conservative operatives from Americans for Prosperity working out of their offices during the legislative session, it’s ridiculous to get upset about a few suggested edits to a press release from an advocacy group that works on the issue.

What matters is this: Colorado’s nation-beating election system got even better yesterday with the help of legislation supported by Secretary of State Jena Griswold. If we top Minnesota in 2020 and become America’s most participatory electorate, Secretary Griswold will get the credit–deservedly, unlike Griswold’s Republican predecessor who opposed the 2013 reforms he later took credit for.

In the end, there are two kinds of political news: news you talk about for a couple of days and then forget about and news that changes things. The legislation signed by Gov. Polis is the latter, and it’s that success Secretary Griswold’s detractors tried to step on.

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (January 22)

If you have gone the entire month without once writing “2018,” then give yourself a nice pat on the back. Now, let’s “Get More Smarter.” If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The federal government shutdown is now in its 32nd day, and supporters of President Trump are increasingly getting fed up with the man they helped elect to the White House. From the Washington Post:

“What the [expletive] were we thinking?”  [Pols emphasis] he asked the other night inside a Walmart here, in an area of blue-collar suburban Detroit that helped deliver the presidency to Trump.

While Trump’s relationship with much of his base remains strong, two years after his inauguration his ties are fraying with voters like Jeff Daudert, the kind who voted in droves for Trump in key pockets throughout the industrial Midwest, flipping previously Democratic states to him in 2016. The shutdown fight, as it has played out over the past month, is further eroding the president’s support among voters who like the idea of beefing up border security — but not enough to close the government.

Many here, even those who still support Trump, say they hold him most responsible. They recite his comment from the Oval Office that he would be “proud to shut down the government.” When he said it, they listened. [Pols emphasis]

“What the [expletive] were we thinking?” If there is a more perfect quote for Trump supporters, we’d love to see it.

 

► In local shutdown news, Colorado has spent more than $100,000 on unemployment benefits for federal workers who aren’t getting paychecks anymore; Gov. Jared Polis authorized an emergency rule to allow federal employees who remain on the job (without pay) to apply for unemployment benefits.

As the Denver Post reports, the shutdown is causing significant economic damage across a broad range of sectors in Colorado.

 

Senate Republicans have ceded the shutdown/border wall debate to President Trump, offering little resistance to their man in the White House. And as Politico reports, upcoming Senate legislation to end the shutdown is filled with sharp, pointy bits that won’t do much for a compromise:

A 1,300-page spending bill released by Senate Republicans Monday night contains provisions to restrict asylum and other hard-line immigration changes that make it unlikely to generate bipartisan support.

Democrats already were poised to reject President Donald Trump’s proposal to pass his $5.7 billion funding request for a border wall in exchange for temporary protections for some immigrants brought to the United States as children and others covered by a humanitarian status. But hawkish measures embedded in the Republican spending bill will give Democrats even more reason to spurn the legislation.

“This is a Stephen Miller special,” Kerri Talbot, a director with the Washington, D.C.-based Immigration Hub, told reporters Tuesday. “It’s a Trojan horse with many extreme immigration proposals included.”

The bill doesn’t appear likely to end a partial shutdown of the federal government that stretched into its 32nd day Tuesday.

Elsewhere, CNN takes a look at six potential scenarios that could possibly lead to an end of the government shutdown.

 

► Republican State Rep. Lori Saine (R-Weld County) is getting blasted in both local and national press over comments she made suggesting that white and black people were lynched in equal numbers after Reconstruction (comments first reported here at Colorado Pols). Here’s a brief rundown of the coverage.

You know you done f*cked up when even Fox News calls you out.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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A Very Different Secretary of State’s Office Is Coming

Secretary of State-elect Jena Griswold announced her picks for key staff positions today, and the hires give us a real sense of where this office is headed after eight years of varyingly controversial Republican control:

Colorado’s new Deputy Secretary of State Jenny Flanagan is a longtime executive staffer at the national voting-rights advocacy group Common Cause, a group that played a large role in the election reforms passed in Colorado in 2013 that have boosted turnout in this state to second in the nation in 2018. Shad Murib comes to the Secretary of State’s office by way of the Senate Democratic staff, while Serena Woods is a veteran of numerous campaigns and nonprofits working at the state capitol. Ben Schler is the one high-level staffer in this announced group staying on from the previous administration to provide continuing expertise.

Although his four years in office were not free of controversy from Jon Keyser’s fraudulent petitions to a still-pending ethics matter over personal purchases on his office’s discretionary account, it should be acknowledged that Griswold is set to inherit a functional Secretary of State’s office from outgoing Republican Wayne Williams. Although Williams joined in local Republicans’ now-proven laughable trashing of House Bill 13-1303, the legislation responsible for making Colorado’s ballot one of the nation’s most accessible, when it came to the law’s implementation once elected he shares some credit for making our mail ballot/same day registration elections a national model. Although Republicans proved they could win elections too with mail ballots in 2014, there were more than a few in Williams’ own party who just plain don’t want high turnout elections.

With that said, Williams proved himself to be a partisan Republican operator in clutch moments, like Walker Stapleton’s own petition fraud scandal this year, that remind us all again how inherently conflicted this office is–and how important it is for the Secretary of State to maintain high ethical standards. Williams wasn’t quite the brazen partisan his predecessor Scott “Honey Badger” Gessler was, but he was ready to run cover for Republicans when it mattered most.

Is the new Secretary of State also a partisan elected official? Of course. The difference is, maximizing voter turnout and accountability for election finance shenanigans pose no political conflict of interest for Colorado’s new Democratic Secretary of State.

So yes, it’s going to be different now, and we’re excited to see how much.

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Will The President Endorse Other Trump-Loving Candidates In Colorado?

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Walker Stapleton’s “complete and total endorsement” this week by Trump came as a surprise, in part because other Colorado candidates, who’ve also backed Trump, did not get the President’s kiss of approval.

Colorado’s Republican candidate for governor appears to be the only candidate who’s invited Trump to Colorado to campaign with him, but other local Republicans have lavishly and loyally supported Trump.

For example, George Brauchler, who’s battling Democrat Phil Weiser to be Colorado’s Attorney General, told fellow Republicans last year that “we’re in pretty damn good hands right now” with Trump, and he called on other GOP candidates to come forward and tell voters if they also cast a ballot for the President.

“And I’m here to tell you I voted for Donald Trump,” Brauchler told the group. “…If you listen to the news, you think we’re on the verge of some sort of Constitutional crisis. This tells me we’re all in pretty damn good hands right now in terms of the United States of America.”

A handful of local state senate races will determine whether Republicans lose their majority in the chamber–and likely hand control of Colorado state government to Democrats.

Some of the Republican candidates in these senate races have stayed silent when it comes to Trump, but Littleton GOP State Sen. Tim Neville, who faces Democrat Tammy Story, is a loyal and vocal Trump backer, who joined other Trump leaders in Colorado this year in celebrating Trump’s “year of greatness” to mark the President’s first full year in office.

Beth Martinez Humenik (front right)

Beth Martinez Humenik, who’s facing Faith Winter in a swing Adams County district, appears to be in Trump’s camp due to the fact that she recently appeared with the President’s Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and gave him the thumbs up in a photograph.

An email to Humenik’s office seeking clarification of her stance on Trump was not returned. Calls to Wheat Ridge Republican Christine Jensen and to Tony Sanchez, who’s running for a Lakewood senate seat, were also not returned.

On the Democratic side, President Barack Obama endorsed the Democratic candidates, including Winter and Story, in the key races that will likely determine which party controls Colorado’s senate chamber.

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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. 

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Colorado Democratic Assembly Results

Colorado Democrats assembled at the 1st Bank Center in Broomfield from Friday, April 13, to Saturday, April 14, 2018. The crowd of almost 4,000 Democrats were enthusiastic, engaged, yet civil (in contrast to the stunning back-stabbing and skullduggery at the Republican assembly) . The CDP Assembly was superbly well-organized, with balloting completed in about a half hour, and counted in less than two hours.  Kudos to Chair Morgan Carroll and all of the CDP staff and volunteers.

All of the  congressional districts held their own assemblies; many candidates had primary challengers or Democratic challengers to Republican incumbents. In this “blue wave” year, no office held by the GOP can be considered to be off-limits. Democrats in Colorado put forward a slate of phenomenal candidates.

The official results from the Colorado Democratic Party (CDP) for statewide offices are:

CU Regent-at-Large
Lesley Smith: 3,229 votes (100.00%)

Based on these results, Lesley Smith has qualified for the Democratic primary ballot for CU Regent-at-Large.

Treasurer
Bernard Douthit: 1,074 votes (31.50%)
Charles Scheibe: 557 votes (16.34%)
Dave Young: 1,778 votes (52.16%)

Based on these results, Bernard Douthit and Dave Young have qualified for the Democratic primary ballot for Treasurer.

Secretary of State
Jena Griswold: 3,352 votes (98.44%)
Phillip Villard: 53 votes (1.56%)

Based on these results, Jena Griswold has qualified for the Democratic primary ballot for Secretary of State.

Attorney General
Amy Padden: 360 votes (10.54%)
Joe Salazar: 1,249 votes (36.58%)
Phil Weiser: 1,805 votes (52.87%)

Based on these results, Joe Salazar and Phil Weiser have qualified for the Democratic primary ballot for Attorney General. Amy Padden can qualify for the ballot if the Secretary of State determines that she has collected the requisite number of valid signatures.

Governor
Cary Kennedy: 2,101 votes (61.65%)
Jared Polis: 1,120 votes (32.86%)
Erik Underwood: 187 votes (5.49%)

Based on these results, Cary Kennedy and Jared Polis have qualified for the Democratic primary ballot for Governor.

NOTE: These are not all of the candidates that are running for these particular offices. Some candidates have chosen to qualify for the ballot by submitting petition signatures instead of going through the caucus-assembly process.

Here are the CD results in order: ( rounded to nearest 1%). I’ll update this list with numbers as I find them.

I’ve included my notes on the assemblies I attended and on the speakers I heard.

CD1: (Denver metro)Diana Degette – 61% . Her primary opponent, Saira Rao , got 37%, and  will be on the ballot. Rep. Degette has been a reliable Democratic vote for many years in a safe district – I think Rao’s candidacy will be a needed wake-up call to be more progressive and to offer better constituent services. Rao is sharp, a great speaker, and has energized the progressive base. Degette attended her CD1 assembly on April 13 , did not attend nor speak at the state assembly April 14.

CD2: (Boulder area – Jared Polis vacated the seat to run for Governor) Joe Negeuse – 91% Joe gave a helluva speech, as he always does. His personal story touches many people. Boulder will be well represented by him, as he’ll certainly win the primary, and almost certainly the general election. His primary opponent, Mark Williams, did not make the ballot.  The GOP has put up a couple of “Nicks” against Neguse: Nick Thomas and Nicholas Morse. I don’t know who won the GOP assembly vote, but they won’t beat “the Goose”.

CD3: (most of the western slope and SW CO – currently held by Scott Tipton) Diane Mitsch Bush had the highest delegate vote with 56%; Karl Harlon also cleared the 30% threshold with 41%, and will be on the ballot.

CD4: (Mostly NE CO – current incumbent Ken Buck) The Doctors were in the house! Veterinary doctors Karen McCormick and Chase Kohne each had throngs of energetic supporters on stage for their nominations. Each gave a rousing speech:

Kohne’s best line, in my opinion: “If you want to shoot an AR15, go down to the recruiting office and join the military.”

McCormick’s nominators are emphasizing Dr McCormick’s support for Dreamers and immigrants. Karen McCormick emphasized Cannabis, immigrant rights, healthcare, union support, bipartisan cooperation to get laws passed. Full disclosure: I live in CD4. I’m voting for McCormick, will be fine with Kohne as well.

CD5 (El Paso area, currently held by Doug Lamborn) Stephany Rose Spaulding won the delegate count and will be on the ballot. I don’t know about the other CD5 candidates, whom you can read about at the EPCO Young Dems site.  It’s great to see so many young Democrats running from what has6been the Tea Party GOP’s bastion in Colorado.

CD6 Aurora / Arapahoe County area, currently held by Mike Coffman. Jason Crow won top ballot with 64% , while Levi Tilleman will also be on the ballot with 35%. I saw Crow speak to the assembly, and found his persona to be authentic and appealing. PPP surveyed 761 voters, and found that Crow polled 44-39 against Coffman in Febrary 2018.

CD7 Ed Perlmutter, the Democratic incumbent, did not attend the Assembly as far as I know. Ed, a very popular Congressman in his district,  is not  being primaried in this election.

 

Author’s note – this diary started as an open thread based on my  live blogging at the Colorado State Assembly. I’ve updated it with ballot results.

 

 

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President Trump Nominates Colorado Judge Neil Gorsuch

UPDATE #5: LGBT advocacy group One Colorado:

“Religious freedom is a core American value that we all cherish, and it is already protected by the Constitution. Attempts to give a license to discriminate through religious exemptions are contrary to the notion that we should treat others as we wish to be treated and scores of faith leaders have spoken out against such policies — including last week here in Colorado.

“A Supreme Court that would rule in support of religious exemptions would certainly open LGBTQ Americans up to discrimination and open up a can of worms that could allow individuals to ignore child welfare, domestic violence, or other laws that someone could contend is contrary to their religion.

“The Supreme Court has the potential to shape the future of our nation for generations to come and Supreme Court Justices should be committed to upholding America’s promise of fairness and freedom for all. We call on Colorado’s U.S. Senators Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet to reject President Trump’s nominee.”

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UPDATE #4: Sen. Michael Bennet’s spox, polite but not what you’d call enthusiastic:

“As a fellow Coloradan, Michael congratulates Judge Gorsuch and his family. He takes seriously the Senate’s responsibility to advise and consent on Supreme Court nominations. He intends to review Judge Gorsuch’s record carefully in the coming weeks.”

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UPDATE #3: A healthy dose of skepticism from Rep. Ed Perlmutter:

But Reps. Scott Tipton, Ken Buck, Doug Lamborn and Mike Coffman are predictably all smiles:

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UPDATE #2: The Denver Post’s Mark Matthews:

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., in a statement Tuesday night called Gorsuch “one of our country’s brightest legal minds with significant experience as a federal judge and a private litigator.”

“He is an ardent defender of the Constitution and he has the appropriate temperament to serve on the nation’s highest court,” Gardner said. “Judge Gorsuch also adds to the court’s Western perspective, with his understanding of uniquely Western issues like water and public lands issues. I’m enthusiastic about the native Coloradan’s nomination and will work to ensure that his confirmation process is fair, thorough, and expedient.”

But NARAL Pro Choice Colorado is decidedly less positive:

“Judge Gorsuch has a record of ruling in a way that does not reflect Colorado values on reproductive rights. This is a pro-choice state that supports the Constitutional right to abortion enshrined in Roe and the right to privacy enshrined in Griswold – beliefs that are contradicted in Judge Gorsuch’s ruling in Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters.

What’s troubling in Judge Gorsuch’s ruling in Hobby Lobby was his apparent support for “personhood”, the conferring of legal rights to a fertilized egg. He said that, “the mandate compels Hobby Lobby and Mardel to underwrite payments for drugs or devices that can have the effect of destroying a fertilized human egg.”

This is not only unscientific and counter to Griswold and Roe, it is counter to the will of Colorado voters. Coloradans have said in landslide numbers in the voting booth that they oppose personhood, which would outlaw all abortion and many forms of contraception.

As the first state to allow safe, legal abortion in 1967, after Griswold and before Roe, Colorado has a long, bipartisan history of supporting reproductive rights. Judge Gorsuch does not reflect the will of our state or the Constitutional rights of American women and we would oppose his nomination.”

Ian Silverii of ProgressNow Colorado is similarly talking tough:

“Neil Gorsuch is just the latest in a series of horrible choices by Donald Trump,” said ProgressNow Colorado executive director Ian Silverii. “Gorsuch’s fringe views on health care and contraception make him an enemy of Colorado women. On the Supreme Court, Gorsuch would be a vote to roll back women’s rights, environmental protections, and hard-won protections against discrimination in the workplace. Gorsuch has even been endorsed by the founder of the National Organization for Marriage, an anti-LGBT extremist group. Gorsuch may hail from Colorado, but his record stands in opposition to Colorado values.”

“The simple fact is that this Supreme Court appointment was stolen from President Obama last year in a shameful act of Republican treachery,” said Silverii. “No Democrat should in any way cooperate with or otherwise enable Gorsuch’s Supreme Court nomination, including Colorado Democrats. To do so would only hand Trump another undeserved victory.”

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UPDATE: It’s Gorsuch. Stand by for statements and coverage.

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Neil Gorsuch

The news has been leaking out of Washington D.C. for the past couple of hours: Colorado Judge Neil Gorsuch appears to be Donald Trump’s choice for the Supreme Court vacancy.

Here’s more from National Review:

President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court will be Neil Gorsuch, a well-respected conservative whose legal philosophy is remarkably similar to that of Antonin Scalia, the justice he will replace if the Senate confirms him. He is, like Scalia, a textualist and an originalist: someone who interprets legal provisions as their words were originally understood.

For more background on Gorsuch, check out Politico and Think Progress.

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Stay Classy, Right-Wing Bloggers

We don't typically pay much attention to local conservative blogs, generally for qualitative reasons. But earlier this week, a local conservative blog wrote up the story that Colorado is opening a one-person office in Washington, D.C. to advocate on behalf of the state. As the Denver Post's Allison Sherry reported:

The state is now among 32 other states that have offices or advocates in Washington.

The one-person office, headed by Colorado native and lawyer Jena Griswold, will monitor legislation on Capitol Hill and comb for federal grant opportunities in the executive branch.

The local conservative blog in question chose to "satirize" the opening of this office with a Getty Images photo that is, in the context they used it, about as tasteless as it gets:

hicktheatershooting
Source: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images North America

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