Gessler Check Confirms Questionable Voter Registrations

August 31, 2012

GESSLER: My goal is to make it easy to vote, but tough to cheat

DENVER – Secretary of State Scott Gessler released figures Thursday showing that one in eight Colorado voters who presented non-citizen identification when registering is in fact ineligible to vote.

Gessler, who came under fire for sending out letters to suspected non-citizen voters, said he has received responses from 498 of the 3,903 voters contacted by mail earlier this month.

Of those, 482 produced documentation affirming that they are citizens, while 16 removed themselves voluntarily from the voter rolls. Another 1,011 letters were returned showing that the recipient had moved with no forwarding address.

Gessler praised the responding voters for helping safeguard Colorado’s electoral process.

“Each of these residents helps improve the integrity of our voter rolls and increases voter confidence across the state,” Gessler said in a statement. “While some prefer to fan partisan flames and score political points, these residents share an interest in ensuring only eligible voters are casting ballots.”

The Associated Press released a story Monday saying that 40% of the voters contacted by the secretary’s office were registered Democrats, while 46% were unaffiliated. Just 12% of those contacted were Republicans, prompting Democrats to accuse Gessler of partisan cherry-picking.

“It makes me suspect, and it should me the people of the state suspect, what his true motivations are,” Democratic state Rep. Crisanta Duran told the AP.

Joanne Schwartz, executive director of ProgressNow-Colorado, blasted Gessler in a statement Thursday for using his office to investigate “a ridiculously small” number of suspected illegal voters.

Gessler spokesman Rich Coolidge said the office looked only at the documents provided by the voters at the time of registration, not their political party. The voters were registered as they received their driver’s licenses at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

“We simply compared a list of people who showed non-citizen documents to the DMV against the voter file,” said Coolidge in an email. “Apparently, 40% were affiliated with the Democrat Party. Any implication that partisan politics played into these numbers is reckless and not based in fact.”

Gessler announced Aug. 24 that he had finalized an agreement with the Department of Homeland Security to check Colorado’s voter rolls against the federal database of registered non-citizens. The access will allow Gessler to check the citizenship status of Colorado voters using the most current data.

The secretary plans to hold hearings for voters who do not respond to his letter asking for documentation. His office held a public meeting Wednesday to discuss the hearing process.

“When some races hinge on just a handful of votes, every vote counts,” said Gessler. “My goal is to make it easy to vote, but tough to cheat.”

Gessler lost a court battle Thursday when the Colorado Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling saying that the secretary exceeded his authority by raising the financial disclosure bar from $200 to $5,000 for certain political groups.

Gessler had argued that he was bringing the rule into compliance with a recent federal court ruling, but the state court said the legislature should make that decision.

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