By Tori Richards | Colorado Watchdog
DENVER – Six weeks ago, the secretary of state sent a mass mailing to suspected illegal voters hoping to snare a large group engaging in voter fraud.
When news that his 3,903 mailers generated a response from just 141 people who shouldn’t be on the rolls, Republican Scott Gessler was roundly criticized for wasting resources and engaging in a witch-hunt of minorities.
Not to be deterred, Gessler continued, announcing Tuesday that another 300 non-citizens were identified by the Department of Homeland Security. That’s 11 percent of his original list, which was compiled with the help of DMV records. Anyone who wants to obtain a driver’s license and ID card in Colorado must provide proof of lawful residence or obtain a waiver.
“It’s unacceptable to have ineligible voters casting ballots in our elections,” Gessler said in a statement. “We want to ensure the most accurate, reliable elections possible.”
Ensuring the integrity of voter rolls is critical, but the secretary might more reasonably have worked to clean up voter lists in the 10 Colorado counties where more than 100 percent of the eligible population is registered to vote.
A Watchdog.org investigation found that Colorado is among a dozen problem states with bloated voter rolls, states where substantial numbers of registered voters are dead or have moved away, for example. Here in Colorado, about one-third of the 3.4 million registered voters haven’t voted in recent elections:
- 31,655 voters last cast a ballot in 2000 or earlier
- 265,680 have not voted since 2006
- 592,292 people have registered but never voted
Those numbers dwarf the anemic list prepared by the secretary of state, who did not respond to requests for comment.
And those numbers suggest that Colorado — a swing state — is wide open to the possibility of electoral fraud. Currently only 11 states have photo ID laws at polling places and Colorado is not included in that group. While some states require absolutely no identification, Colorado has taken the step to make voters show something with a name and address on it — a phone bill, utility bill or paycheck stub. Anyone who wants to vote in place of someone who has been languishing on the rolls could easily obtain those documents from that person and cast a ballot after having also voted themselves.
For those who are more industrious, the Secretary of State can sell them a database of the people who have not voted in recent elections. It may take some know-how to wade through it all, but anyone who does this can replicate a utility bill or pay stub in their quest to elect their favorite candidate.
Gessler has tried somewhat to mollify this situation by challenging Denver County Clerk Debra Johnson in court when she disclosed that ballots would be mailed to inactive voters, the Denver Post reported. Johnson, a Democrat, won the battle and was soon joined by seven other county clerks who indicated they would do the same.
Gessler has had his hands full trying to keep up with a myriad of issues outlined in a testy letter he received from state’s county clerks. They asked him to put his energy into making sure that the electronic registration process was running smoothly, electronic ballot counting goes off without a hitch and complaining about a voter drive plagued by misdirected mail.
Every election is filled with glitches and no one wants to cast a ballot that isn’t counted. The core of our democracy is based upon a free election system. But neither can it be diluted with people who shouldn’t be there.
Going after the 3,903 when you have 1.2 million who are inactive – especially in those 10 counties – seems a little lopsided. We’re not saying that the 341 should vote. On the contrary. But let’s not focus on the trees when we have the forest.
“When you can borrow a name on the list and it’s been there a long time, it will be very hard to prove anything one way or the other,” said Watchdog researcher Earl Glynn, who authored the study.
In the end, maybe changing the rules to require a photo ID for voting would solve the problem.
“If we need an ID for everything else, we should have one to vote. That simple,” Olivia Boyer wrote on Colorado Watchdog’s facebook page. “We don’t and therefore it’s rife with criminal activity.”
And this post by Kerry Ginther:
“I don’t understand how anyone can vote in an American election without an ID (either by mail or in person). It sounds like some backwards country where they have you put ink on your thumb to insure you don’t vote twice. We are supposed to be one of the countries with the most technology.”
Tori Richards can be reached at [email protected]