DENVER—Any “gypsy voters” who cast ballots in the recall election of Senate President John Morse will have to tangle afterward with the El Paso County District Attorney’s office.
That’s the message from El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Wayne Williams, who says he can’t do much to stop out-of-district voters before the Sept. 10 election but can try to track them down afterward.
Election officials have raised red flags over Colorado’s new elections law, the Voter Access and Modernized Election Act, which contains a loophole that appears to allow voters who have lived in Colorado for at least 22 days to cast ballots in any jurisdiction, as long as they say they “intend” to move to that district.
“The increased attention to the potential practice of ‘Gypsy Voting’ has raised awareness to the issue and has prompted responses from other government officials,” said Williams in a statement. “I would like to reiterate that it is a Class 6 Felony to provide false residency information on a Voter Registration Form.”
He continued: “On top of that, it is a Class 1 Misdemeanor to falsely swear or affirm as to your qualifications to vote. The El Paso County Clerk and Recorder’s Office will take steps after the election to verify the residency of anyone that changes their address to vote in the Senate District 11 Recall Election, and we will not hesitate to refer any suspicious activity to the District Attorney for investigation and prosecution.”
Possible steps include said sending follow-up mail to any recall voters who change their address during the voting process.
“If that follow-up correspondence is returned as undeliverable or otherwise invalid, the person in question will be immediately turned over to the District Attorney for investigation and prosecution,” said Williams.
The new election law, also known as House Bill 1303, was approved by the state legislature in May with no Republican votes. Morse voted in favor of the measure, which was sponsored in the Senate by state Sen. Angela Giron (D-Pueblo), who’s also up for recall.
The recall petition drives were launched in March, shortly after Democrats voted to approve three gun-control bills.
The Colorado Springs Gazette wrote a blistering editorial Friday criticizing H.B. 1303 and noting that the law also opens the door for political operatives to bus homeless people into the district for the recall election.
Under H.B. 1303, no identification is necessary to vote and people may register to vote on the day of the election. Homeless people have long been permitted to vote in Colorado elections as long as they give a general area as their residence, such as under a particular bridge or in a park.
“A homeless person can walk in and claim he intends to live under the Cimarron bridge,” Williams told the Gazette. “That’s now his residence and under that scenario we might not be able to prosecute, even if we suspect fraud.”
Driving homeless people to Colorado Springs and Pueblo to vote in the recall election may sound like a lot of trouble, but it’s nothing that campaign workers wouldn’t do to boost their chances, said the Gazette.
“Those who think political operatives won’t exploit the homeless to abuse this law do not understand political passion,” said the Gazette. “People on all sides of this campaign work day and night and devote substantial amounts of capital in hopes of affecting the outcome. Transporting out-of-district voters to the polls, to do something legal under the Morse-sponsored election law, hardly seems an unlikely maneuver.”
Supporters of the election bill say the scenario is nonsense. Alan Franklin, political director of ProgressNow-Colorado, called a Colorado Observer story about gypsy voters “poppycock” in a tweet.
On the other hand, others believe it may not be illegal for, say, Denver voters to cast ballots in a Pueblo legislative election. Douglas County Clerk and Recorder Jack Arrowsmith told the Observer last month that the new law appears to permit out-of-district voting, as long as the voter has lived somewhere in Colorado for at least 22 days, intends to move, and doesn’t vote more than once per election.
The Gazette said the sweeping new election law is another reason constituents support the recall against Morse.
“We have fair elections because of rules. We have state and federal constitutions to keep politicians from unraveling fundamental protections of life, liberty and pursuits of happiness,” said the Aug 16 editorial. “Morse tried to circumvent those laws–even wreaking havoc with election security. It’s one more reason so many in his district want him recalled.”