DENVER — Once again, Secretary of State Scott Gessler has uncovered more illegal voters, and once again, his critics are dismissive.
Gessler announced Friday that he had found 141 non-citizen voters in his first attempt at comparing the names of suspected illegal voters against the federal database. Thirty-five of those had voted in previous elections.
Gessler had flagged 3,903 suspected illegal voters, but said he was only able to compare 1,416 of those to the federal record because the database requires an alien-authorization number for verification.
Colorado Common Cause executive director Elena Nunez said she continues to worry that Gessler’s aggressive campaign to clean up the state’s voter rolls will result in the removal of legal voters. In the past few months, the secretary has identified more than 700 illegal voters, but critics say that number is insignificant.
At the same time, she praised Gessler for agreeing Friday to postpone rulemaking on how to handle non-citizen voters flagged by the federal database until after the Nov. 6 election. His office held a public meeting on the issue last week.
“The bigger piece for us was the secretary’s decision not to move forward with the rulemaking before the election,” said Nunez. “Many people at the meeting had concerns that it wasn’t a thoroughly vetted process. It’s a real victory for us to have him take that step back, even if we don’t agree on everything.”
Gessler said in a statement that there was simply not enough time before the election to draw up adequate procedures for handling the illegal voters, blaming the federal government for delaying access to the database.
“We confirmed our current voter registration has vulnerabilities,” Gessler said. “It is unfortunate the federal government dragged its feet for a year, putting us in a difficult position for the coming November election. For now, we will evaluate the effectiveness of the current challenge provisions, while we develop better procedures for the future.”
The Republican secretary of state, along with officials from 11 other states, fought for more than a year to gain access to the Systematic Alien Verification and Entitlements database. The Department of Homeland Security acceded to the states’ demands in July.
It took another seven weeks for Colorado and federal officials to devise a protocol for handling the voter checks, which placed the process within 60 days of the election.
Gessler came up with the list of potential illegal voters by identifying applicants for driver’s licenses who produced non-citizen documentation. He said he has forwarded the names of the 141 illegal voters to the appropriate county clerks to initiate challenge procedures.
While Gessler is best known for his fight against voter fraud, he made headlines Tuesday by launching the biggest voter-registration push in state history, a multi-pronged effort that includes postcards to 961,000 unregistered citizens, as well as television, radio and print ads featuring regular Coloradans.
The state received $850,000 in federal funds to cover the expenses, and Gessler’s office came up with the remaining $220,000 through fees. The ads are scheduled to run until Oct. 9, the deadline to register for the election.
“I do think this shows that this office has a very strong commitment to political participation,” Gessler said at a press conference.
The voter-registration drive earned him a rare pat on the back this week from the editorial page from The Denver Post. Even Nunez said she supported the secretary’s effort, adding that she was “pleased to see him move in that direction.”