Archive for the 'Colorado Secretary of State' Category

On radio, Secretary of State should have been challenged when he implied that getting an ID for voting is easy

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

Back in January, Colorado’s new Secretary of State, Wayne Williams, suggested that people who register and vote on Election Day should present a “Department-of-Revenue-issued ID.”

Williams made it sound like this would be a snap for voters: “And it’s important to note that in Colorado, ID’s are free, to anyone who’s indigent. Anyone who’s poor, anyone who’s elderly can get a free ID,” Williams told Colorado Public Radio’s Ryan Warner Jan. 11.

Technically, that’s true. But in reality, especially if you’re old or indigent, getting an ID is often neither easy nor free. With the Colorado state legislature debating a bill today requiring IDs for Election-Day registration, now is a good time for Warner to air some of the facts that run counter to Williams’ simple view.

The core problem is that, while an ID itself is free, through the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), the underlying documentation required to get an ID can be expensive to obtain and time-consuming to assemble.

From reading Colorado’s law mandating free IDs for those over 64-years and the indigent, you might think all you have to do is trot over to your county human services department, pick up the required forms, and then get hooked up with your free ID from DMV.

Not really. At Denver Human Services, you can get a coupon for a free ID if you declare that you are homeless, and therefore entitled to a $10.50 fee waver. But if you don’t have citizenship documents, you have to go to a nonprofit “partner” organization for help, according to Julie Smith, Communications Director at Denver Human Services.

“We recognize that this is a challenge to navigate, especially if you have to obtain a birth certificate,” said Smith, adding that transportation alone is a “big challenge” for people who are homeless.

Metro CareRing is one of Denver Human Service’s partner organizations that helps poor people get their citizenship documents together–at no charge.

“I often refer to our staff person who works on this as, affectionately, a ‘detective’ because people come to us sometimes not even knowing their birth place or all of their birth circumstances,” said Lynne Butler, Executive Director of Metro CareRing, echoing others in the field in Denver. “They might say, they think their mother was incarcerated in the state of New Jersey. Our staff person will begin from a place like that and spend a great deal of time and investigation finding the material and ordering the proper identification documents that come from the state for that birth certificate. So it’s a paper-trail process, and expensive.”

But funding the project now, even without more people potentially requiring IDs for  voting, is thin.

“We’ve had to turn away people,” said Butler, who says her organization provides more documents for the poor than any other  nonprofit in Colorado. “And to think that we might have more people in need of documents now because of [voting requirements] is an alarming thought.”

“Right now, we’re struggling to find the funding that we need,” says Butler. “We had to cut back recently, because some of our funding, in fact our major funder, cut back.” Butler says a “Collaborative ID Project,” with Denver Human Services, Colorado Legal Services, Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, and Metro CareRing, work together.

The IDs poor people obtain with the help of nonprofits like Metro CareRing serve many purposes, Butler points out, reflecting the widespread belief that getting an ID is a critical part of anti-poverty efforts, even it’s difficult to get IDs. You need an ID to pick up mail, to rent an apartment, get Medicaid and other public benefits, to open a bank account, to get a job, to see a doctor or get medicine from a pharmacist.  Sometimes you can work around the ID requirements, but people like Butler say an ID is a necessity of life.

And she hopes somehow, someday everybody will have an ID.

But as of today, that’s nowhere near the case. And the resources aren’t there to change that reality any time soon, as the government agencies, including DMV itself, and nonprofits that help poor people get IDs are at or near capacity.

And the number of people with no IDs appears to be in the staggering range–especially when viewed from the comfortable perspective of those who have little or no contact with indigent or poor people.

Last year, in a review of studies on voter-identification issues, the Government Accountability Office found that between 5 and 16 percent of registered voters do not have photo identification. That’s registered voters, potentially hundreds of thousands or more of them among Colorado’s 3.5 million registered voters. Colorado voters must show show a photo ID when they register to vote, if they have one, so Colorado may have fewer registered voters without IDs than other states, but we don’t know for sure.

Still, you’d have to think the percentage of unregistered voters (over a half million in Colorado) without IDs would be higher, potentially in the tens of thousands.

The Department of Motor Vehicles issued a total of 23,458 free ID cards in 2014, with nearly 18,000 of those going to people over 64, according to data supplied by the Department of Motor Vehicles. About 2,000 were distributed at no charge to a holder of a county coupon, most likely indicating homeless or indigent status. Another 1,800 were issued at no cost to the Department of Corrections.

So when you explore the world of getting identification cards for the poor, what you find out is that it’s a huge problem without a simple fix, especially with current resources. A Loyola University study found that while some votes would be voided by a photo ID, tens of thousands of people without IDs would be disenfranchised. This confirms a Brennan Center for Justice study citing research that voter-identification “laws disproportionately harm minorities, low-income individuals, seniors, students, and people with disabilities.”

Here in Colorado, if a law passed requiring a person to have an ID to register to vote on Election Day, it would clearly be impossible for some people to get an ID card, if they decided to vote on Election Day itself. And it might be impossible even if they planned months in advance or longer.

So, when Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams hits the media circuit and implies it’s easy for poor people to get an ID, reporters should be sure to offer up the other side, invisible as it is to most of us.

Media omission: Gessler says only he has the “guts” to fight rampant corruption in CO government

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

During a radio interview Saturday, Secretary of State Scott Gessler framed his gubernatorial campaign as a battle to save Colorado from the rot of corruption, saying our “state government is corrupt,” and he’s the only candidate who’s had “the guts to stand up and say, ‘No more.’”

“I’ve had the guts to stand up and say, ‘I’m not going to tolerate this; I’m going to fight back,’” Gessler told KNUS radio-host Jimmy Sengenberger, citing his clashes with Democrats over his budget and ethics issues. “And no one else wants to because they’re afraid. They’re afraid that if a Republican gets criticized they can no longer win elections. And let me ask you, Jimmy, how has that worked out for us over the last ten years?”

“We are a party that needs to be bold,” replied Sengenberger, whose show airs Saturdays 5 – 8 p.m. on KNUS. “I agree with you there–”

“I am the only guy who’s being bold on this stuff and what happens?” Gessler continued. “We have these fearful, weak-kneed, timid Republicans who are more interested in scoring political points against me than standing up for principle and saying, ‘You know what? We have corruption in this state.’”

“Republicans need to stand up and understand that we have a corrupt state government.  They shouldn’t buy into the corruption,” he said.

During the interview, Gessler criticized members of the Independent Ethics Commission and called it “corrupt.”

In June, the Independent Ethics Commission ruled that Gessler violated the public trust by using public money to attend a Republican political event. On the radio, Gessler was incensed by this decision as well as the Commission’s dismissal last month of a complaint against Gov. John Hickenlooper

Gessler said at one point, referring to the Commission, “Let me tell you, Jimmy, this is a corrupt, corrupt government. And I will say ‘corrupt’ again.”

Comparing the corruption he says he saw as a young man in Bosnia and Chicago to what he sees in Colorado today, Gesser said, “Where people no longer respect the law, we lose the foundation of our western civilization here. And we’re facing that in Colorado.”

Gessler’s talk-radio salvo conflicts with his own office’s election rule that you have to live in a district in order to vote there

Monday, October 21st, 2013

Back in August, Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s office issued an election rule stating that voters must reside in the same district in which they vote, and, in case someone like Jon Caldara was wondering, Gessler’s rule stated that “intent to move, in and of itself, does not establish residence.”

This sounded sensible to people who believe in representative government.

But about a week later, the residency rule was rescinded by Gessler’s office for no apparent reason. It was part of a set of election rules, one of which was thrown out by a judge, but Gessler wasn’t required to dump the residency rule. But he did anyway.

About a month later, people who believe in representative government were surprised when Gessler stepped up to a talk-show microphone on KNUS radio and proclaimed that under Colorado’s new election law, “you don’t have to live in the district in order to be able to vote there, which I think is just absurd.”

Now, even people who don’t believe in representative government were puzzled, because in August Gessler’s office had arrived at the exact opposite conclusion about the new law.

The eternal question: What would Gessler say next?

Well, on Oct. 9, the residency rule was re-issued by Gessler’s office in almost the exact same words as before, stating that “intent to move to a new district or county, in and of itself, is not enough to establish residency.”

The rule also says: “An elector may not register to vote in a new district or county unless he or she has already moved and established his or her primary residence in the new district or county.”

Just like before, this makes sense to most everyone, except maybe Jon Caldara and…we don’t know if Gessler’s on board with it, even though it emanated from his office.

Will Gessler again be asked to step up to a talk-radio microphone and explain if he still thinks, like he said before, that Colorado’s new election law mandates that “you don’t have to live in the district in order to be able to vote there?”

How could he possibly think so, now that his office has twice concluded otherwise? I’ll be sitting by my radio, waiting for his answer on KOA, KNUS, KLZ, or wherever.

Actually, wouldn’t it be fun if Jon Caldara asked Gessler about it on his Sunday KHOW show?

For the sake of civic order, journos should correct Gessler’s misinformation that you can vote anywhere you want

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler told KNUS talk-radio host Steve Kelley yesterday: “Now, apparently, you don’t have to live in the district in order to be able to vote there, which I think is just absurd.”

Listen to Gessler on KNUS radio 9-18-13

Gessler’s comment to Kelley contradicts voting rules issued by Gessler’s own office in August. On the subject of residency requirements, Gessler’s rule (32.7.3.D) stated that voters must, in fact, reside in the district in which they vote.

Among other things, the rule stated that “intent to move, in and of itself, does not establish residence.”


This residency rule was part of a set of election guidelines that also included a measure, later thrown out by a judge, that would have made it harder for military families and students to vote.

Rather than just rescind the portion rejected by the courts, Gessler’s office struck all of the guidelines in the rule, including the portion on residency requirements. So the SOS’ residency guidelines are now off the books. Still, it’s the last word we’d gotten from Gessler’s office on the residency topic, and it contradicts what Gessler told Kelley yesterday.

And, re-focusing on the bigger picture, it’s Alice-and-Wonderland logic to assert that Colorado’s new election law allows you to vote anywhere you want in the entire state, regardless of where you live. And it’s Mad Hatter-like for Secretary of State to say this, especially when his office contradicted him a couple months ago.

In a conversation with The Colorado Independent’s Mike Littwin Tuesday, Gessler hinted that he knows deep down that you’re required to vote where you reside. Gessler seemed to praise Jon Caldara for “staying in El Paso” after he voted there as part of a media stunt that’s gotten Caldara in legal trouble. But as Littwin pointed out, Caldara has announced that he will continue to reside in Boulder.

But the day after he talked to Littwin, Gessler stepped up his rhetoric, saying on the radio if “you say you intend to live there then I guess that’s good enough.” Then he went into full attack mode on the election law, forgetting that it was promoted by a bipartisan group of county clerks from across the state:

Gessler: But it just goes to show that the pull behind this bill really didn’t care about fairness. They didn’t care about listening to any other opinions except their own. They didn’t care about anything except, in my view a ruthless partisan power play. And that’s what they did. And when they froze everyone out, anyone who might disagree with them, they froze them out and refused to even talk to them about it. It shows you they were up to something, and you see the result. Apparently, you don’t have to live in the district anymore to be able to vote there. And that’s absurd.

What’s really absurd would be if Gessler’s comments go uncorrected in Denver media circles.

Boyles should find out why Gessler agrees that Hick delayed Dunlap execution because of what would be said at NYC fundraisers

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

Appearing on KNUS’ Peter Boyles show yesterday, Scott Gessler lit into top Colorado Democrats, saying he thinks Senate President John Morse said “stuff like, people who own guns are a mental sickness.”

Gessler also agreed with Boyles, when he said Gov. Hick delayed the killing of murderer Nathan Dunlap because Hick couldn’t have gone to NYC “cocktail parties and fundraisers” because people would have said, “‘That’s the governor that executed the black man.’”

“That’s right,” Gessler responded to Boyles baseless characterization of Hick’s Dunlap decision.

Listen to Scott Gessler on KNUS 710 AM Peter Boyles 7-16-12

I’m sure Boyles, given his former place of honor in Denver journalism circles, would like to know Morse did not say gun owners are a mental sickness.

When the  Independence Institute’s Jon Caldara misquoted Morse on the “mental illness” line, I pointed out that there’s no way you can construe Morse’s  reference to a Martin Luther King speech as an attack on gun owners. ColoradoPols made the same point.

So, Pete, you owe it to decency to correct Gessler on air.

Boyles should also give Gessler air time to clarify why he believes Hick gave Dunlap a reprieve because he was worried about what would be said at New York cocktail parties and fundraisers.

I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t be interested in hearing more detail on that one.

Boyles said he’d be having Gessler on his show repeatedly, so he’ll have plenty of chances to get into it with Gessler on this.

Here’s the relevant portion of Gessler’s appearance on KNUS’ Peter Boyles’ show July 16. Listen to Scott Gessler on KNUS 710 AM Peter Boyles 7-16-12

Boyles: They are the recall targets simply for their grab on the Second Amendment. Make some of that clear, please, if you would, Scott.

Gessler (@ 5 min 15 sec in linked audio above):  Sure. So John Morse is the president of the State Senate. And I think he said stuff like, people who own guns are a mental sickness.

Boyles: Yep. Yep.

Gessler: Something along those lines. Really rough stuff. And then Angela Giron, she hails from a pretty democratic district in Pueblo. But it’s pretty conservative. And I think people there still value their Second Amendment rights in that life. And so people decided to recall her as well. And so they are very contentious. I think they are the first recalls of Colorado legislators in Colorado’s history. We’ve had lots of recalls for other offices….

Boyles (@ 9 min 45 sec in linked audio above): I don’t believe he could have shown up in New York City—it’s almost like a Tom Wolfe Mau-Mauing the flak catchers. He couldn’t have walked into their cocktail parties and fundraisers and somebody say, ‘That’s the governor that executed the black man.’ He couldn’t have done it.

Gessler:  That’s right.

Media omission: Gessler’s first direct response to Ethics Commission ruling

Friday, June 14th, 2013

Reporters apparently missed Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s first direct response to the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission’s finding that he violated state ethics law and “breeched the public trust for private gain.”

Gessler made his comments on KNUS’ Kelley and Company (710-AM) this morning, and reporters should have tuned in. So I’ll fill in the media gap and provide a transcript of most of his comments below. And I’ll update this post with audio of the interview later today.

Guest host Jimmy Sengenberger, filling in for regular host Steve Kelley, did a decent job interviewing Gessler.

Click Here for Audio

Sengenberger: What’s your side of the story?

Gessler: …The Elections Commission, unfortunately, is a just very partisan-driven organization. I mean, two of the members have actually contributed to Hickenlooper, sort of really staunch partisan Democrats. It was pretty clear seven months ago which direction these guys were going. It took them eight months to figure out how to do it. But it was really sort of an unfair process, and it’s frustrating, because you want to think that these guys are going to be fair and even-handed and you want to think that the IRS is going to be fair and even-handed, and you want to think that, you know, things work. But they really don’t a lot of the time. So we are going to be appealing. I’m pretty confident that we’re going to get it overturned because of the way these guys handled themselves.

Sengenberger: I’m curious as to what the Independent Ethics Commission claimed you violated in terms of a statute, rule, or anything in the Constitution that might be in play?

Gessler: Right now I just don’t know. I don’t know. I really don’t know. I mean they had deliberations and they said learning about elections is not official business, which just sort of seems crazy when everyone else disagrees with them.  And that was one of the most frustrating things. We spent seven months trying to get them to tell us what the legal standards were. And then a month ago they said the legal standards could be one of these two things or they could be something else, and we’ll tell you afterwards. And so we still don’t know. So, I mean, maybe when the draw up the report they’ll sort of tell me at that point. But that’s one of the frustrating areas. They just sort of make up the rules as they go along.

Sengenberger: …What do you make of the argument that, well, that you shouldn’t have done it, used discretionary funds, taxpayer money, for something that had a partisan tilt to it?

Gessler: Well, it didn’t have a partisan tilt. That’s the bottom line….We produced a three-hundred-page binder of all the materials that were discussed. None of it was partisan stuff…. I know it had the word Republican in front of it, that was the sponsoring organization, but it was not a partisan event. It was straight-up education. And all the evidence before the commission said that. But they are not really interested in the evidence before them. It was a very partisan-driven outlook.

Sengenberger: …I’m curious as to why you ended up paying back the twelve-hundred-something that you chose to pay back?

Gessler: $1278. Here’s why. I’m just trying to move on when it comes to what goes on with the people of the state of Colorado. But, the money here has been an absolute waste. The last Republican Secretary of State we had, Mike Coffman, also received a complaint from the same organization in front of the same ethics commission. And that cost probably about probably $100,000 to dispute. So these types of frivolous things have cost the state around a quarter million dollars already. And it is just sort of absurd. And you want to put it behind you. You want to have fair elections. You want to move on to trying to make it easier for people to do business and have jobs in the state of Colorado and things like that. I’m trying to put it behind me. I’m trying to push forward. And of course it’s a very vindictive organization and they’re not interested in that–the ethics commission. So that was the purpose. And I was very clear. Look, I don’t think we’ve done anything wrong. I don’t think we’ve ever done anything wrong. But $1,278 is a pretty big distraction when there’s been hundreds of thousands spent arguing over it. Let’s try to put it behind us. Let’s try to move forward. But, you know, even that’s not acceptable because the Ethics Watch organization—no I’m sorry—Ethics Commission. They all sort of blend together after a while.

Sengenbrenner: Yeah.

Gessler: They’re not really interested in that. They’re interested in progressive [inaudible] because they know there’s an election coming up. So they can use this as a way to generate television ads and what not. I mean, that’s really what it’s about. So it’s very frustrating.

Sengenberger: [The left is saying you should have used funds from the travel budget, not the discretionary budget.]

Gessler: They are really sort of nonsensical. I mean, they’re saying I should have used a different fund rather than this fund to go. But it was ok, but if it wasn’t ok, then I shouldn’t have done it. It’s absolutely nonsensical. What it is is a talking point. A talking point. There’s no sense or coherence. Bottom line. Everybody who’s reviewed this, except of course the Ethics Commission, the Colorado Supreme Court, an outside auditor, the State Comptroller, said this was absolutely appropriate for me to do. That’s the bottom line. The left can jabber all they want, and, of course, the Ethics Commission is part of the left. I mean they are driven by my political adversaries.  I mean those are the people who judged me on this. They can jabber all they want. We now go before a real court, the district court and federal courts here. We’re going before a real court with real-world procedure. And this is just a stop on the way going forward, because, look, if you believe in this. You shouldn’t have a government agency that’s politically driven that chews people up. We’ve seen that at the IRS. We’ve seen that with the Ethics Commission. Look at it from that standpoint. I’m not going to stand for it.

Journalists should note smoke coming from Gessler’s pants, if he runs for governor

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

If you’re a reporter, and you’ve been covering Secretary of State Scott Gessler, it’s been a tough few years, because he plays so fast and so loose with the facts.

That’s an accurate assessment, based on Gessler’s record of distorting basic voter information (Voter Fraud! Illegal Voters!), and has nothing to do with his policy positions.  If you’re a fair-minded person, you’d agree that Gessler is slippery.

So I pity the poor reporters assigned to chase Gessler around on the campaign trail, if he runs for governor, because I can only imagine the pitfalls they’ll hit as they try to fact-check the would-be Governor Honey Badger.

You can see it coming, as Gessler contemplates his gubernatorial run.

On KNUS’ Kelley and Company, for example, May 24, Gessler said that one of his major considerations, as he considers whether to run for governor, is to assess what’s left for him to accomplish as Secretary of State.

Gessler: “What have I done at the Secretary of State’s Office? What else is there left to do? Have we been able to accomplish a lot of what we wanted? To a large extent the answer there is yes.”

Gessler’s first goal as Secretary of State, you recall, was to moonlight for his former law firm, so he could make more money. He failed there, after it became obvious that no one would tolerate such brazen conflict-of-interest by the Secretary of State, of all people.

He filed a slew of lawsuits, including a big one to stop ballots from being sent to registered voters who missed just one election, and guess what? He lost most of his lawsuits at god-knows-what public expense, pissing off judges along the way.

He made several unsuccessful attempts to change campaign finance rules. Chief among them was his effort, which was ruled unconstitutional, to raise the threshold from $200 to $5,000 for an issue committee to report contributions and expenditures. He also tried to change the definition of a 527 committee so that most or all of them would not be required to report financial information.

He tried and failed to get a law through the state legislature giving him legal authority to purge voters. In the process, he unintentionally proved, to the few who might have wondered, that there is no significant problem with noncitizen voting in Colorado.

In a 9News YourShow debate prior to being elected, when listing goals as SOS, Gessler referred first to his plan to institute photo identification in Colorado. Failed there.

Next from Gessler’s lips on YourShow was his opposition to same-day voter registration, which is now law.

Gessler says on KNUS that his “record of achievement” includes a successful 2012 election and better services for Colorado business.

Even giving him this, which was arguably forced on him, you’d have to give Gessler a “pants-on-fire” rating for saying “to a large extent” he’s accomplished what he set out to do as Secretary of State.

If he enters the race, you hope journalists will report the smoke coming from Gessler’s pants–and that the fumes won’t choke the other candidates, like Tom Tancredo and Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Post deserves credit for running op-ed, by a Democrat and a Republican, in support of election bill

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

I was glad to see an op-ed in The Denver Post this morning supporting the election-modernization bill winding its way toward Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office.

You recall The Post came out with a shallow editorial last week in favor of most of the bill, but arguing that officials should consider waiting “years” before implementing  election-day registration because it’s so dreadfully complicated for the 21st Century human mind to assemble the necessary technology.

But the Post failed to mention that Colorado’s country clerks are already, in effect, registering people on Election Day with existing technology, which can be used in the 2012 and 2013 elections. And the clerks’ experts say this technology can be upgraded for elections beginning in 2014.

You hate to see a newspaper siding with exclusion, when it comes to elections, based on flimsy evidence, because journalism is supposed to stand for giving everyone a voice. The newspaper should have gone the extra mile to do its homework on the election bill.

So it was a relief to see that The Post gave a Republican, Donetta Davidson (who’s the Director of the CO County Clerks Association), and a Democrat, Joan Fitz-Gerald (former State Senate President), space today to argue for the bill in its entirety. They wrote:

If you’re reading this, you likely voted by mail last November, and you’re in good company: Seventy-two percent of Colorado voters joined you. Mail ballots are a convenient, secure and private way to cast a ballot that is increasingly popular among Colorado voters.

HB 1303 answers the demand of these voters while providing ample options for voters who prefer to vote in person. It eliminates the “inactive-failed-to-vote” status that created confusion for voters. It creates a graduated registration system that scales down the demand on the system as Election Day approaches…

As former county clerks, we both understand the pragmatic, non-political approach to maintaining the public trust in elections. Technology has caught up with the needs of voters and taxpayers. The Voter Access & Modernized Elections Act will mean more people can take advantage of their right to vote, our local governments will save money and we all win.

This publication of this piece again shows the newspaper’s commitment to engaging in a full discussion of issues on its commentary page.

Gloria Neal Show on AM760 offers alternative to the misinformation about the election bill on conservative talk radio

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

If you’ve been listening to conservative talk radio lately, you know most radio hosts on these shows don’t like the election-modernization bill working its way through the Legislature.

Though it might be hard to tear yourself away from Steve Kelley on 710 KNUS in the morning, you might give yourself a break and try Gloria Neal on AM 760. That’s “Colorado’s Progressive Talk,” which used to be hosted by author David Sirota.

Neal had a great conversation last week with Ellen Dumm, who’s a spokesperson in favor of the bill. It’s a great interview as she counters most of the misinformation you hear about the bill on the radio, like the lie it’s nothing more than a partisan trick by Democrats. (It’s been endorsed by 75% of the Colorado County Clerks Association, which includes Republicans.)

Lost in all the attacks is the history of how the bill came forward (from the Clerks) and why (to eliminate the confusion among some voters about how to vote as well as to make voting– and voter registration — more convenient for the rest of us, as well as less expensive for our government, while making sure our elections are secure.)

“What is does is very simple. It gets a ballot to every eligible voter, and they can choose to either vote by mail, which three-fourth of Colorado did in 2012. Or they can drop it off. Or they can vote in person. It’s their choice. We always say, it’s their choice and it’s their voice.”

Listen to Neal’s thoughtful interview here.

Post editorial provides insufficient evidence that timeline for implementation of election-day registration is too short

Friday, April 19th, 2013

In an editorial yesterday, The Denver Post praised all the provisions of the election-modernization bill that just passed the State House, but the newspaper questioned the timeline on the implementation of election-day voter registration.

The Post Editorial stated that the “Internet technology specialist” in the Secretary of State’s office had an unspecified “problem” with the timeline proposed in the bill, which envisions offering election-day registration starting in the coordinated election this November and primary election in June.

The Post advised that “more time should be allowed for development and testing of same-day registration technology,” and the newspaper threw out the completely unsupported suggestion that “consideration” should be given to “disallowing voter registration very close to or on Election Day in the first years of using the technology.” [BigMedia emphasis]

It’s not clear what problem the Secretary of State’s internet expert has with the legislation’s timeline, or whether even he thinks it should operate for “years” before it would be trustworthy (somehow I doubt it), but, in any case, The Post should have offered more evidence to support its view. As it is, readers are left thinking The Post irresponsibly relied on just one opinion.  One expert, even a reputable one, shouldn’t carry the day, just because he happens to agree with the editorial writer.

And as it turns out, there’s more to the story.

For the next two elections, prior to the gubernatorial in 2014, the clerks will employ the exact same technology that they currently use to process “address changes” through election day as well as  “emergency registrations,” Boulder County Clerk and Recorder Hillary Hall told me.

In effect, clerks across Colorado have already processed thousands of same-day registrations on or before election day, using existing technology. Their system, which has been in use since 2008, was live (with backup systems in place) during the last election with all 64 counties participating, Hall said.

In the longer term, a “more seamless” interface is needed, because of the volume increase that’s expected in the bigger elections, but it’s not required for the next two elections, Hall said, adding that she’s confident, based on experience and technical advice, that the new interface will be ready for the 2014 election, which is about a year-and-a-half away. The congressional election would be a good test for the technology leading up to the 2016 presidential election, Hall said.

“It’s an ideal time to begin, as we’re building to the next presidential,” Hall said.