By Ben DeGrow | Special to Colorado Watchdog
When Craig Steiner returned to Colorado from Mexico in 2006, a decade after making his residence south of the border, an extra person came with him. He had met and married Erika Gonzalez, a Mexican national.
Craig’s wife became a U.S. citizen in June 2010, just days before the deadline to register to vote in Colorado’s primary election. She had come into the country legally and waited for the naturalization process to be completed before voting.
Because she had applied for a Colorado driver’s license before being eligible to vote, Erika was one of nearly 4,000 people to receive a letter this week from Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler, asking that she provide proof of citizenship to remain on the state’s voter rolls.
As Colorado Watchdog’s Tori Richards reported, included with Gessler’s mailing was “a letter from a Canadian citizen who asked to be removed from the voter database” after a Department of Motor Vehicles clerk incorrectly registered him to vote when he applied for a driver’s license.
These incidents support reasonably grounded doubts about the integrity of the state’s voting process.
While some liberal activist groups proclaimed their outrage at Gessler’s actions, receiving the official letter on Tuesday provided an eye-opening moment for Craig and Erika.
“Initially we were confused, because she had already voted in three elections,” including a primary ballot and the 2011 off-year election, Craig said. It never occurred to him and Erika that no one in state government would verify her citizenship status when she registered online at a Secretary of State branch office more than two years ago.
Craig, a Highlands Ranch software engineer and officer in the local Republican Party, said neither he nor his wife was offended by the Secretary of State’s request.
“I was personally excited to see that happen,” he said. “It seems like this is the way it’s supposed to work.”
In addition to contacting voters of questionable citizenship status, Gessler also has requested assistance from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to help determine which one-time noncitizens have become legal voters.
The night the letter came, Craig posted on Facebook not only his kudos to Gessler but also a rebuke of Gessler’s predecessor: “As far as Colorado knows she’s still not a citizen — though she was able to vote in 2010, presumably because former SoS Bernie Buescher (Democrat) didn’t think it was worth checking….”
On Thursday, Erika mailed back the requested information to the Secretary of State’s Office. She can go right on casting a legal ballot, just like any other U.S. citizen.