CASTLE ROCK—Jon Caldara may not have been the only voter whose residence wasn’t quite set in stone on Election Day.
Douglas County Clerk and Recorder Jack Arrowsmith says he plans to refer 11 voters to the District Attorney’s office because he cannot confirm they were living at the address they listed when they registered to vote shortly before the Nov. 5 election.
In addition, El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Wayne Williams has referred six voters from the Sept. 10 recall election whose addresses he was unable to verify to the District Attorney, said Williams spokesman Ryan Parsell.
“We assume that these are possible violations, and I’m not sure what those might be,” said Arrowsmith. “But the only way to vet it is after the election process. There’s nothing you can do during the process.”
He was referring to the process of registering voters under the state’s newly approved election law, known as House Bill 1303, which ushered in same-day voter registration—but has also raised questions over whether voters can engage in so-called “gypsy voting” by saying they plan to reside in another county on Election Day.
So far it appears that they can—under certain circumstances. Caldara tested the premise by casting a blank ballot in the Sept. 10 recall election of state Sen. John Morse, even though Caldara has long lived in Boulder and the recall was held in Colorado Springs.
Last week, the Attorney General’s office said it would not pursue criminal charges against Caldara, prompting him to issue a press release saying, “I’m not going to jail! Well . . . at least I’m not going to jail for voting.”
“But all this proves the simple point–it is now legal to move voters around on Election Day to where their vote is most needed,” said Caldara. “It’s not just pot that’s now legal; voter mischief is now legal in Colorado, too.”
Under H.B. 1303, voters must live in Colorado for at least 22 days before an election, but they aren’t required to have lived in a particular precinct during that time. The elimination of the precinct-residency requirement has led to speculation that campaigns may try to bus in voters from outside jurisdictions to tip the balance in tight local races.
Republican legislators have called on Democrats to work with them in tightening up the election law’s so-called flaws, but so far Democrats, who control both houses, have shown little interest in revisiting the bill.
“I do know there’s a Republican leader in the House who approached a Democratic leader in the House and said, ‘Let’s work on this,’ and that person said, ‘No, thanks,’” said state Rep. Frank McNulty (R-Highlands Ranch).
Even so, he said he expects efforts to be made during the 2014 General Assembly to amend the elections law. Rep. Bob Rankin (R-Carbondale) is drafting legislation, and the county clerks are expected to ask the legislature for uniformity in the registration deadlines for races in special districts and municipal districts.
“The evidence tells us we ought to go back and fix this, but the political advantage that Democrats get from voter fraud and vote-rigging outweighs any public-relations hit they may take,” said McNulty.
After the law passed, the Secretary of State issued a rulemaking saying would-be voters must have more than just an intent to live in a new jurisdiction—they have to show proof. In Caldara’s case, he had an agreement showing he had rented a room with a friend in Colorado Springs.
Assistant Attorney General Robert Shapiro called Caldara’s arrangement “suspicious,” but concluded that “a criminal prosecution is not warranted or viable at this time.”
The ruling has elections officials like Arrowsmith concerned that there may be little that can be done under the law to stop voters from “moving” temporarily to sway the outcome of elections. Several other county clerks contacted by the Observer said they’re still pulling together their figures from the Nov. 5 race.
“I don’t know how you convince lots and lots of people to break the law. It just doesn’t seem practical. But could you orchestrate a handful of people in a hotly contested, very competitive race?” said Arrowsmith. “We didn’t have a race that was only 11 votes’ difference in Douglas County, but it sure could happen, where a very small handful of votes could affect the outcome of the election.”
Indeed, the initial margin of defeat was just 13 votes in the Nov. 5 vote over the Broomfield fracking ban, which flipped to a 20-vote victory after a recount and has since been challenged in court.
Looming in November is Colorado’s 6th Congressional District race between Republican Rep. Mike Coffman and Democrat Andrew Romanoff, a contest that’s already drawing national attention as a potential nail-biter.
“I’m looking forward to the Great Election Migration of 2014. After all, now that we all have the right to vote in the hottest congressional race in the country between Mike Coffman and Andrew Romanoff even if we don’t live in that district, why wouldn’t we!?” said Caldara, who heads the Independence Institute, a free-market think-tank.
“We might not like the new voting law, but damn it, if these are the new rules of the game, we better use them,” he said. “And [the] Independence Institute, with your help, will teach every voter in Colorado how to play to win.”