By Tori Richards | Colorado Watchdog
DENVER – When a famous Colorado resident went to his mailbox recently, he was shocked and distressed at what he found.
It was a piece of junk mail with his correct last name but his internet password inserted as a first name. Given that the password was not his first name and would be impossible to guess, the man tore open the envelope and was upset to learn that the holder of this privileged information was a voter-registration solicitor.
“I immediately wondered how they got this and what could happen to me now that they had this information,” said Tom Tancredo, a former Republican congressman and presidential candidate. The offender: The Voter Participation Center, a $5-million non-profit voter drive organization based in Washington D.C. with ties to the Clinton and Obama administrations.
Tancredo immediately changed his password on his email account and other places where it was utilized.
A VPC official speaking on condition of anonymity had this to say: “This is the first and only time I’ve heard of an issue like this. I have no idea how this would happen. I don’t see it as a security issue here — that’s ludicrous. We don’t know his password; we don’t want his password.”
It would be one thing if this were the organization’s only gaffe. But the VPC has a history of soliciting dogs, cats, corpses and children for votes — leading some to suspect something more nefarious. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney thinks so: in July his campaign asked the Virginia secretary of state to seek criminal charges against the group.
Similar problems have erupted in states like Florida, Virginia, New Mexico, Louisiana, Georgia, and Washington. All are tied to the VPC.
A Watchdog investigation has revealed that swing states like Colorado, Virginia and Ohio have numerous counties where the number of registered voters outnumbers the population.
In Colorado, 5 out of the 64 counties have more registered voters than residents. And 17 out of 64 counties show more than 100 percent of all eligible voters are registered. In addition, many counties have a rate of inactive voters as high as 40 percent.
Could it be harmless error?
Richard Coolidge, spokesman for Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gesture, said voter rolls are electronically purged on a regular basis of felons and dead people.
“A check of the Department of Corrections and Department of Public Health is done automatically to remove people convicted of felonies and people who have died,” Coolidge said.
So it’s hard to explain places like Denver, a Democratic stronghold where
81,533 of the county’s 218,012 Democrats are listed as “inactive” — meaning they haven’t voted in the last election in an even-numbered year and will not be mailed ballots, but they can still go to a voting booth because they are on the rolls.
“I don’t believe it’s harmless error, this has been worrisome for a long time,” Tancredo said. He believes there’s a more sinister explanation.
“In some races, this could impact who wins the election,” he said, pointing to a close 2010 U.S. Senate race between a Republican district attorney and a Democratic incumbent. Michael Bennet beat Ken Buck by 15,646 votes or less than .1 percent.
Non-profit and non-partisan?
The Voter Participation Center claims to have mailed registrations forms to 4 million people in 28 states. Its primary targets are women, young people and Hispanics – all huge voting blocs for Obama.
Further, it partners with far left-wing organizations like the National Council of La Raza and the Center for American Progress. La Raza has staged protests across the nation, waving Mexican flags and demanding amnesty for workers who are in the U.S. illegally. The Center for American Progress was founded by John Podesta, who was Bill Clinton’s chief of staff and helped lead Obama’s transition team.
The VPC was founded in 2003 by Page Gardner, a Clinton campaign director. The group was formerly called Women’s Voices Women Vote and rallied behind Hillary Clinton’s bid for the White House in 2008 before changing its name last year.
Gardner did not return a call seeking comment. However, her website offered the following statement:
“The mission of the Voter Participation Center (VPC) is to register qualified voters – NOT dogs and cats. Pets cannot submit voter registration applications and they cannot vote – which seems to be news to some people, given all the attention some small number of pets receiving a voter registration application has received.”
But to Romney, it wasn’t a matter that could be brushed off. In response to a July story by the Richmond Times-Dispatch about how the VPC registered a felon to vote in 2008 – and the woman actually voted for Obama — the Romney camp demanded verification of the 15,026 voters who registered that month following a 200,000-piece mailing by the VPC.
Saying the group induces voter registration fraud, Romney attorney Kathryn Bieber wrote a letter to the secretary of state saying, “This is the only way for voters and other interested parties to regain confidence in the voter registration and electoral process that has been abused by the Voter Participation Center,” the Times-Disptach wrote.
Romney’s demand was vehemently opposed by Gardner and ultimately nothing was done. But other states didn’t let the group off as easily. In New Mexico, Secretary of State Dianna Duran sent the VPC a letter in June saying that the group’s mailers are going to minors, non-citizens and others who are not eligible to vote.
Duran said on her website that the VPC induces people to commit a crime.
“Your methods and your mailing lists appear to have significant flaws, to the detriment of many of the recipients, as well as the integrity of the voter file in New Mexico,” Duran wrote.
In Florida, the secretary of state is trying to find a way to keep the group from sending out mailers because “they are misleading voters,” the Tampa Bay Times reported in June.
Tom Schedler, the Louisiana secretary of state, issued a press release in July that accused the VPC of having a shoddy mailing list.
“Not only did the list contain dead people, but it also contained minors and felons which opens the door to voter fraud,” Schedler wrote. He explained:
“The complaints logged by the Secretary of State’s Office specifically include pre-filled applications with nicknames; recipients who thought someone was trying to change their name; deceased applicants’ names on mailings (in some cases since the 1960s and 1970s); misspelled applicants’ names; recipients concerned with identity theft; minor children in receipt of applications; recipients questioning the legitimacy of the pre-filled applications; recipients already registered; addressee on mailing did not live at address; and addressee on mailing lives and is registered in another state.”
Colorado’s Secretary of State Scott Gessler found earlier in the year that 17,000 mailings lacked a signature line, making the application invalid. The VPC was asked to correct the error on future mailings.
Gessler’s spokesperson Coolidge said he has not received any formal complaints about the VPC in recent months.
For Tancredo, the whole issue is another assault on the sanctity of the Constitution and the right to a fair election.
The VPC “is evidentially an Obama front organization or at least a left-wing outfit that is trying its best to get Obama voters registered — female, young, minorities,” Tancredo said. “I’m not sure where I fit into that particular scheme other than I sometimes think of myself as a minority because I’m a conservative white male.”
Contact Tori Richards at [email protected]