DENVER—The Arapahoe County District Attorney’s office filed charges Friday against two voters and two canvassers affiliated with Work for Progress, a liberal campaign-hiring group in Denver.
George Brauchler, District Attorney for the 18th Judicial District, said in a statement that charges were filed for violations occurring in Arapahoe County between 2008 and 2013.
The investigation began in July after Secretary of State Scott Gessler sent the District Attorney’s office a list of 41 individuals in the 18th Judicial District suspected of voter fraud. Two voters were ultimately charged, while suspected violations by two canvassers were unearthed during the probe.
Brauchler said the investigation shows that while election misconduct in Colorado isn’t widespread, the system is ripe for fraud.
“I don’t think fraud is epidemic, and we demonstrated that,” said Brauchler. “Out of 41 names, we got two that we think were prosecutable, and we found two more. But I think it is ripe for fraud.”
Carl Blocker, 51, of Fairplay, and Michael Michealis, 41, of Brighton, were charged with procuring false registrations while working for Work for Progress or Grassroots Voter Outreach, a subcontractor of Work for Progress.
In addition, two male non-citizens, a 72-year-old Ethiopian national and 47-year-old Polish national, were charged with procuring false registration. Both registered to vote online, said Brauchler.
The charges are unclassified misdemeanors punishable by up to 18 months in jail and/or fines of up to $5,000.
Charges were filed against the canvassers after investigators with the 18th Judicial District executed a search warrant at Work for Progress’s office in Denver.
“Frankly, we might have been able to find more [violations], but the documentation of canvassers is limited, very limited,” said Brauchler. “As a state, we don’t do a very good job of making people accountable for their canvassing. But we found two where we felt very comfortable that they had violated the statute, they misled people in registering to vote when they knew that they likely shouldn’t.”
Work for Progresss’s website says it “provides hiring services to progressive campaigns and non-profit organizations. Its clients include Environment America, Fair Share Alliance, Progressive USA, Public Interest GRFX, the Fund for the Public Interest, and U.S. PIRG, according to the website.
A phone message left at Work for Progress was not immediately returned Friday.
As for the rest of those on the list of 41 names, 21 were found to be eligible voters, eight could not be found, and the proof against the remaining 10 was inconclusive.
“We ended up deciding not to charge most of ones [because] we found they were misled into thinking, ‘Oh, you can fill this form out, you can register to vote,’” said Brauchler. “The two that we did end up charging were ones where it was clear, they knew what they were doing, they weren’t misled, they weren’t misinformed, they weren’t confused. We believe they knew what they were doing.”
One big problem for investigators was tracking down information about the potentially fraudulent voters on Homeland Security’s SAVE immigration database.
“We don’t have the ability to run someone by name or date of birth to see if they’re an eligible elector. Instead, you have to have their passport number,” said Brauchler. “It doesn’t mean that the federal government doesn’t have this information–they do. They just won’t give it to us or make it accessible to the Secretary of State for this use.”
He said he hoped the state legislature would move to shore up areas of weakness in Colorado’s election system before the November 2014 election.
“I think what’s good about this now is we have now identified flaws in the system that I think this legislature can address and frankly the federal government can address soon, so that when the election of 2014 comes around, we’re not worried about the integrity of our voting system,” said Brauchler.