Archive for the 'Colorado Secretary of State' Category

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.

Talk-show host should have questioned Gessler’s assertion that election bill being pushed by “radical liberals”

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

On Saturday, Scott Gessler continued his campaign against proposed election-modernization legislation, saying on KVOR’s Jeff Crank show that the bill is being pushed by “radical liberals in the Democratic Legislature.”

Crank has a right to see radicalism among Colorado Democrats that I’m missing, but, in any event, Crank surely knows that the election bill has been endorsed by the Colorado County Clerks Association, with support from Democratic and Republican clerks, as well as the Colorado AARP and others.

I looked for Donetta Davidson, Executive Director of the Colorado County Clerks Association, last time I was at Burning Man, but I didn’t see her there.

If you happen to be at any rad gatherings and you want to find Davidson, please click here to see her photo.

Meanwhile, here’s a portion of her biography, as posted by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, after Davidson was appointed to serve on the Commission in 2005:

Ms. Donetta L. Davidson was nominated by President George W. Bush and confirmed by unanimous consent of the United States Senate on July 28, 2005 to serve on the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC). She was reappointed to a second term on October 2, 2008. Ms. Davidson was elected Chair of the EAC for 2010. She previously served as Chair in 2007 and Vice-Chair in 2008. Her term of service extends through December 12, 2011. Ms. Davidson, formerly Colorado’s secretary of state, comes to EAC with experience in almost every area of election administration – everything from county clerk to secretary of state.

Ms. Davidson began her career in election administration when she was elected in 1978 as the Bent County clerk and recorder in Las Animas, Colorado, a position she held until 1986. Later that year, she was appointed director of elections for the Colorado Department of State, where she supervised county clerks in all election matters and assisted with recall issues for municipal, special district and school district elections.

In 1994, she was elected Arapahoe County clerk and recorder and reelected to a second term in 1998. The next year, Colorado Governor Bill Owens appointed Davidson as the Colorado secretary of state, and she was elected to in 2000 and reelected in 2002 for a four year term.

Where’s “easy-to-vote” Gessler now?

Monday, April 15th, 2013

Scott Gessler likes to soften his repeated accusations of voter fraud by saying his job, as Secretary of State, is to make it “easy to vote but tough to cheat.”

As Gessler told the Conservative Political Action Committee in October:

And I think most people would agree that when it comes to elections, it should be easy to vote but tough to cheat.  And, you know, I’m focused on both efforts.

Actually, if you listen to Gessler, you know he delivers the “easy-to-vote, tough-to-cheat” line all the time.

What’s Gessler thinking about the “easy-to-vote” part of the deal now, as country clerks have initiated a bill, currently making its way through the State Legislature, that would make voting easier and elections more efficient?

He’s opposing the legislation for a number of reasons, one of which is his belief that Democrats are instituting a “partisan advantage,” even though academics agree that voter conveniences, such as election-day and early registration, for example, do not favor one party over the other.

In response to Mike Rosen’s assertion on KOA last week that Democrats will get more votes if they “make it easier for casual and lazy voters to vote,” Gessler said, “You know, I think there’s evidence to support that.”

Rosen didn’t question Gessler. Why would he, since they echo in the same chamber.

So we need a journalist to find out from Gessler 1) where is his evidence that voter conveniences produce partisan results, 2) why it matters anyway, unless he’s against voting, and 3) why he’s against key elements of an election bill that would do what Gessler says he wants–make voting easier?

Durango Herald correct in asserting that academics don’t see partisan advantage in election-day registration

Friday, April 12th, 2013

In his April 9 article about proposed legislation that would, among other things, allow citizens to register to vote through Election Day, Durango Herald reporter Joe Hanel wrote:

Conventional wisdom holds that same-day registration will give Democrats an advantage. However, academics who have studied the idea find the evidence for it is sketchy.

Hanel didn’t cite a specific academic, but his assertion is, in fact, correct.

Not that it matters. Presumably, in America, we want as many people to register and vote as possible, within budget and security constraints, whether they do it picking their nose in the shower or on Election Day at the polls. In other words, the debate about whether same-day registration favors one side or the other is irrelevant, unless you’re against voting.

But, in any event…

I called Associate Professor Michael McDonald at George Mason University, and he told me that early voting and same-day registration may, in some situations, benefit Democrats and, in others, benefit Republicans.

“It depends on the ability of the campaigns to mobilize voters,” he told me. “In different situations, Democrats may win the early vote. Republicans may win the early vote in other situations. It depends on the context.”

In 2010, I interviewed Curtis Gans, Director of the Center for the Study of the American Electorate, about whether he believes same-day registration benefits Democrats or Republicans. Gans is not a Ph.D., but he is a widely quoted independent expert, who’s been associated with American University, the Woodrow Wilson Center, and elsewhere.

“I think it’s not predictable at all,” he answered. “We have been shown that it’s not predictable one way or the other. There’s plenty of evidence.”

He added: “So long as a state does not have a history or likelihood of abuse of the registration system…- fraudulent registration, voting in the name of dead people, that sort of thing…-there is no harm and maybe a little good that can come out of election-day registration.”

Colorado has no such history of election fraud, as far as I could find.

I asked Gans, “What’s the little good that can come of same-day registration?”

“The good part is, that if people get interested in the election closer to the election, they don’t have to sit it out because they’re not registered,” he told me. “That’s the good part. It enhances the opportunity to vote.”

I called Gans yesterday to get an update on the situation. He told me his view remains the same.

“It’s also true with in-person early voting,” Gans said. “In 2004, the Republicans got the benefit of in-person early voting. The last two elections the Democrats did. It depends on the political climate.”

Colorado’s current practice is to cut off voter registration 29 days before ballots are cast.

“It depends on who’s motivated to go vote,” Gans said, adding that he doesn’t think there’s any dispute among election experts on this point.

Gessler trashes Denver Post

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

On KOA’s Mike Rosen show this morning, Secretary of State Scott Gessler amped up his attacks on The Denver Post, saying, among other things, that the newspaper is “ideologically skewed in one direction, and that’s where they devote their resources.”

Tell that to ColoradoPols, Mr, Secretary of State. But it gets worse.

In response to Rosen’s assertion that Post news coverage of Gessler channels “Democrat talking points” and gives “lip service to the other side,” Gessler said:

“I think that’s true lately. I think part of it depends on who the reporter is who covers my office. So this article today is written by a guy Joey Bunch. He’s new on the beat. So we’ll see how well he works. I’m sort of optimistic that he will be a lot fairer than what we’ve seen in the past.”

I asked the collective wisdom on Twitter if anyone thinks Post reporter Joey Bunch will be “a lot fairer” to Gessler than the Post’s previous Gessler-beat reporters , Tim Hoover and Sara Barnett.

No one replied, but I can tell you that Hoover (who’s writing editorials) and Barnett (who’s gone) are widely considered stars in Denver journalism circles.

Gessler implied that The Post has an institutional bias against him, saying:

“You know, I think The Denver Post is just ideologically skewed in one direction, and that’s where they devote their resources.”

And he expects The Post to get fully behind former Senate President Ken Gordon, who’s running against Gessler.

“I’ll be running against Ken Gordon and his largest corporate donor, which is The Denver Post,” Gessler told an approving Rosen.

Gessler’s comments today go beyond the usual darts he’s thrown at The Post and other media outlets in the past. He’s trashing specific Post reporters, as well as the entire institution.

Coming from an elected official who, more than other partisan politicians, is supposed to stand up for democracy, and seems so ignorant about the role of journalism therein, it’s gross.

Someone at The Post, maybe one of the good folks who posts on the Editor’s Notes blog or somewhere, should respond to Gessler’s abuse.

Transcript of Mike Rosen’s interview with Scott Gessler 4-10-13

Rosen: “You’ll be running for re-election against The Denver Post. It’s one thing for them to endorse a Democrat, any Democrat, on the editorial pages, which they, no doubt will. But they have been on you ever since you took office. And I think, in most cases, unfairly. In any event, do you know who your official Democrat opponent will be.”

Gessler: “I do. It’s Ken Gordon.”

Rosen: “Former state legislator.

Gessler: “Former state legislator. He ran eight years ago against Mike Coffman, narrowly lost. So, I’ll be running against Ken Gordon and his largest corporate donor, which is The Denver Post.”

Rosen: “What does The Denver Post have against you?”

Gessler: “You know, I think The Denver Post is just ideologically skewed in one direction, and that’s where they devote their resources. I mean, if you look at this legislative session, every single initiative that the Democrats have pushed, the democratic post [laughs], The Denver Post has been on board with that 100 percent. They’ve sided with the Democrats every single time.”

Rosen: “In their news stories attacking you, they just channel Democrat talking points, giving lip service to the other side. That’s my appraisal, and of course I’m biased. But I think my analysis is accurate.”

Gessler: “I think that’s true lately. I think part of it depends on who the reporter is who covers my office. So this article today is written by a guy Joey Bunch. He’s new on the beat. So we’ll see how well he works. I’m sort of optimistic that he will be a lot fairer than what we’ve seen in the past.”

Radio host lets Gessler deliver platitudes and accusations without evidence or specifics

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

On his radio show this morning, KNUS Steve Kelley repeatedly let Scott Gessler deliver platitudes about Colorado elections without asking our Secretary of State to clarify himself or provide evidence for his accusations.

Kelley first asked Gessler why he opposes providing mail-in ballots to all voters and offering citizens election-day voter registration. Both, Kelley said, are reportedly part of an election-improvement bill that may be considered by the Legislature soon.

Gessler responded:

GESSLER:  Well, let me tell you.  It really opens the door to big problems in the state of Colorado:  problems with vote fraud, problems with the election integrity.  You know, and other states have used these procedures before and we’ve seen real problems there, as well.

Kelley didn’t ask for evidence of fraud, possibly because there isn’t  any, allowing Gessler to continue:

GESSLER: You know, the thing I find particularly frustrating as is Colorado has really good elections.  You know,  the people who generally sort of argue for this stuff say, “Well, you know, we needed to increase voter participation.”  And you look at this last election, Colorado –our voter participation was the third best in the country.  We outperform the – three-quarters of the Same Day Voter Registration states.  We outperform the All Mail Ballot states.  So to me, what it says is these folks who are pushing this type of stuff aren’t looking to solve a problem.  They’re not even really looking to improve our elections.  I think they’re really pushing it for some type of partisan gain, or a way to change the system, to game it, that’s going to help them.

Kelley failed to point out that, even in a good year, over one-third of eligible voters in Colorado don’t vote. Can’t we do better?

Instead, Kelley asked if election reforms would lead to “a lot more fraud opportunity.”

GESSLER:  You know, I definitely think it will.  You know, we’ve got mail ballots elections now for sort of the smaller, you know, municipal elections.  And a lot of people chose to vote by mail in our general elections.  But that’s a lot different than mandating it for everyone and sending everyone on the voter roll automatically a mail ballot for every election.  I think that causes real problems with that. And the Same Day Voter Registration side, where you don’t have time to check and validate anyone’s voter registration, there’s administrative problems, because then every single voting location has to be hard—has to be wired up with an internet connection. So you have problems there….

Kelley said the bill would probably move quickly through the legislature anyway.  To which Gessler replied, in part:

GESSLER:  … What you’re seeing happen is you’ve got this legislature  that’s pushing this incredibly liberal, left-wing agenda.  I mean, guns, special education for first graders, you know, single payer health care system – they’re trying to jam all that stuff through and then change the rules for the elections so that they can seal in their majorities forever.  I think that’s what they’re trying to do.

Again, evidence suggests that same-day registration doesn’t favor one party over the other. Instead, Kelley delivered this:

KELLEY:   Well, they say that elections have consequences, but if you are able to manipulate the election process in some way, [laughs] I mean, that takes that to a different level, then, doesn’t it?

GESSLER:  Yeah.  That’s for sure.  And you know, elections have consequences but at the same time, I think everyone has a responsibility to govern responsibly.  And when it comes to elections, you know, we want to make it easy to vote, tough to cheat.

KELLEY:  …What can anybody do?

GESSLER:  Well, I think there’s two things people can do.  One, talk to your state legislator.  You know, talk to your state legislator immediately about this.  And the second, talk to your County Clerk and Recorder about it, too.  Because, I know that the head of the Clerk and Recorders’ Association has been part of this whole deal – to write this bill.  And I know that there’s Clerks and Recorders that are behind it.  I don’t know exactly who they are.  And I know it includes some Republicans.  And they’re sort of keeping a low profile.  They don’t want people to know their involvement.  And what I think people need to do is call the Clerks and Recorders, and call their legislators and demand to know where they stand on this issue.  And hold them accountable.

Kelley didn’t ask Gessler to name the clerks whom he attacked here.

But Gessler is on Kelley’s show a lot. He can question him more responsibly next time.


Follow Jason Salzman on Twitter @bigmediablog

Gessler reportedly agrees to measure that would eliminate “inactive-failed-to-vote” designation in CO election law

Monday, February 4th, 2013

I reported last week that Secretary of State Scott Gessler was in Glenwood Springs recently telling a local reporter that he’d been working with Denver County Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson to solve their disagreement about whether voters who’ve missed just one general election should be sent mail-in ballots like other registered voters.

Carbondale-based radio station KDNK quoted Gessler saying that if the State Legislature approves a “solution” that Gessler claimed to have hammered out with Johnson, then “the issue will probably ultimately go away.”

This seemed like a strange statement, given that Gessler is in the midst of suing Johnson to stop her from mailing ballots to voters who’ve missed just one election.

So I called Johnson’s office to get its reaction.

Alton Dillard, a Spokesperson for the Denver Elections Division, told me that Gessler and Johnson agree on a measure to get rid of the “inactive-failed-to-vote” designation entirely, thereby allowing to voters who’ve missed just one election to receive mail-in ballots.

This is “essentially” the same proposal, with a few tweeks, that was considered by the Legislature last year, as Senate Bill 101, but was blocked, Dalton said.

Under the proposal, voters could still be put on “inactive” status if their ballot or another piece of voter communication was returned, Dalton said, adding that voters would have a number of options to return to active status.

This year, the inactive-failed-to-vote measure is believed to be included in a larger bill with a number of election-related provisions, Dalton said, but he’s not seen this legislation.

Dalton emphasized that the Denver Clerk and Recorder’s Office has a “great relationship” with the Secretary of State’s Office, though the two government entities “continue to work through some philosophical disagreements.”

Away from “people who are paid to be angry,” Gessler announces break-through agreement with Denver. But is it real?

Friday, February 1st, 2013

Aspen’s KDNK radio reported this week on a visit from Secretary of State Scott Gessler to Glenwood Springs where Gessler hoped to get feedback from locals on how the last election went for them.

KDNK reported that Gessler was “getting away from the usual talking points and what he called ‘people who are paid to be angry.’”

KDNK didn’t ask Gessler if he was also getting away from people who are unpaid and angry, but maybe a reporter can put that question to our Secretary of State once he returns to Denver.

Trouble is, Gessler probably lumps reporters into the “paid-to-be-angry” category of people, given that he thinks The Denver Post has been on a “jihad” against him, and Gessler is a frequent critic of professional journalists (but talk radio hosts, not so much).

KDNK reporter Erik Skalak reported Gessler’s comments on a 2011 lawsuit Gessler filed against Denver County Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson. A judge ruled against Gessler, allowing Johnson to send election ballots to voters who had skipped the last general election. KDNK reported:

“I think the judge was just wrong in his analysis,” Gessler told KDNK. “I really do. That said, you know, so the Clerk and Recorder in Denver and I have sort of been the two people opposing one another. And I’ve been in conversations with her for a long time, ever since the lawsuit, even before the lawsuit, on how we can sort of find a way to move forward on that. And I think we’ve hammered out a solution. So even though we’re still at the District Court Trial, if we’re able to get this solution through the State Legislature, the issue will probably ultimately go away.”

KDNK didn’t get a comment from Johnson, and I’m hoping reporters will join me in finding out if this solution is real–or just more Gessler loose mouth.


Not news: Gessler raises specter of “dramatic” fraud, if election-day registration passed

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

If you’re a reporter, you’re naturally inclined to pay attention to your Secretary of State when he or she warns that possible legislation could lead to “dramatic” vote fraud.

But if it’s Colorado’s Scott Gessler, we’ve all learned by now, journalists can relax. Just relax. No need to race to get it up on Twitter. No need to rush anywhere, because it’s not news. He’s lost his credibility way more than Chicken Little.

So, I hope you didn’t get excited if you happened to be listening to Greeley radio station KFKA Monday morning and heard Gessler say this to host Tom Lucero:

“I’ve heard a lot of radical stuff coming out of the Legislature. We’ll see what actually happens.

“But one of the things that I’ve heard that they want to push is same day voter registration, where someone shows up on Election Day and registers immediately. And that creates all kinds of havoc in our systems, and it’s not secure at all. We’ve seen, you know, real, real, dramatic vote fraud in other states, especially urban areas that have used that same voter registration. So, I’m afraid that they’re going to push it nonetheless, and despite all our success in voter turnout, and despite our increased participation, I’m afraid that they’re going to claim that things are terrible nonetheless, and use that as an excuse to push for something that really opens us up to vote fraud.”

[Gessler said some other stuff about his work with the courts on other election matters, and you can listen here: Scott Gessler raises specter of voter fraud if election-day registration passes.]

But, please, we all know by now that if fraud were a real issue, the clerks would be worried. All of them may not be right all the time either, but they’re worth listening to.

And in any case, just for the sake of saying it, you don’t need to dig deep to find out that we can have safe election-day voter registration in Colorado. It doesn’t favor one party over another, which wouldn’t be a reason to oppose it, even if it did.

Bottom line for reporters: You can forget about this blog post and get back to real work.

As GOP continues promotion of anti-women and anti-Hispanic policies, reporters should recall sweet talk after election

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

Correction Jan. 31, 2013. Michael Brown’s quote below was imprecise. The actual quote should read: On Denver radio station KHOW Jan. 16, Michael “Brownie” Brown, George W. Bush’s FEMA Director, told his talk-show listeners, “You hear these sob stories…. I don’t care whether they were two years old or they were 16 years old when their parents brought them across the border. They’re here illegally…. I really don’t have any sympathy.”


As civil-unions legislation hits the home stretch at the State Capitol, along with a bill granting in-state tuition to undocumented college students, let’s take a moment to encourage reporters to recall a jump-up-and-down-arms-waving op-ed that appeared in The Denver Post, just days after the election:

Rupublican thinkers Josh Penry and Rob Witwer wrote about the problem with the Colorado GOP:

We’ve forgotten that politics is a game of addition, not subtraction. And here’s some more math: 50,000 Latino kids turn 18 every month in this country. These kids grow up in households where parents work hard and attend church on Sunday. These are American values. But yes, some of these kids — through no fault of their own — were not born American citizens.

We’ve seen the arc of the immigration debate, and through our own personal experiences, we’ve also seen that it must now be resolved at all costs. This is a human issue, with moral (and biblical) implications. It’s time to bury the hatchet and forge bipartisan agreement on immigration reform.

Now, two short months later, most Republicans at the State Capitol are lining up against the ASSET bill, offering reduced tuition to undocumented college students.

The Post’s Lynn Bartels is calmly pointing out that even fewer Republican lawmakers appear to support a civil-unions bill this year than last year, because the GOP moderates were booted out by voters.

Rep. Cory Gardner is proudly telling the media how much he’d love to fill the GOP tent with women and Hispanics, without saying he’s against all abortion, some forms of birth control, as well as comprehensive immigration reform. Ditto for the rest of the CO GOP delegation, at least with respect to a path to citizenship.

Republicans are NOT jumping-up-and-down-arms-waving to denounce bills, introduced by fellow Republicans at the State Capitol, attacking abortion rights, including a bill banning all abortion, even in the cases of rape and incest.

On the radio, you have Michael “Brownie” Brown, W’s FEMA director with deep Republican connections, effectively thumbing his nose at Penry and Witwer by saying: “You hear these sob stories… I don’t care if they were two-years-old when they came. They’re illegal.. I have no sympathy.”

Secretary of State Scott Gessler may not see the irony that, just as ASSET is debated in Colorado, he’s scheduled to join a panel tomorrow at the Heritage Center with Kansas SOS Kris Kobach, who played a big part in creating the much-maligned anti-hispanic, anti-immigration law in Arizona. They’ll be talking about how to get tough on voting, but tough talk about immigration may pop up given the venue and the audience.

I could go on here, but why make a blog post long when a short one makes your point–and you have other stuff to do, like go on a walk with your 83-year-old mother in Commons Park, where you can relax and watch the GOP self-destruct?