Hyberbolic television coverage of hyperbolic Gessler

With a straight face, Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler told KOAA-TV, Channel 5, in CO Springs on Saturday:

Gessler: I think that [people allegedly receiving two ballots in the mail] really underscores the need to have measures, and these are things I’ve been pushing for a while, to make sure we’ve got accurate voter rolls. So this is a really disturbing, systemic issue that’s going on in Pueblo now and we need to get to the bottom of this very quickly.

“Systemic” issue?

Gessler told KOAA-TV that an undetermined number of people in Pueblo received two election ballots, after they changed their voter registration information.

In KOAA-TV’s story on Saturday, the evidence for this was…. Well, there was none. Only the claim of Gessler:

KOAA-TV: The Secretary of State told us the problem started at the Clerk and Recorder’s Office. People who changed their voter registration had a second profile made in the system, resulting in the extra ballot….

The Secretary of State says the biggest worry is people who do vote twice will dilute votes of those with one ballot, making for inaccurate election results.

So, if you believe Gessler, the election system is teetering toward free fall.

And unfortunately neither the Pueblo County Clerk, who allegedly caused the problem, nor any other source was interviewed to present a countervailing opinion (though, to its credit, KOAA-TV did interview the clerk for a subsequent story, in which he said about 200 ballots out of 59,000 “may be doubles”).

For the KOAA-TV’s Saturday piece, someone named Clarice Navarro appeared on the screen and said:

Navarro: It makes you question how valid each election is, and elections are very important to the state of Colorado and Pueblo in general. So it’s very concerning.

KOAA-TV failed to tell us that Navarro is a Republican State House candidate in the Pueblo area. And she’s a former staffer for Republican Rep. Scott Tipton.

Also unreported was the fact that Gessler and Pueblo’s Clerk and Recorder, Gilbert Ortiz, are in litigation over Gessler’s efforts to block the Ortiz’s decision to send mail ballots to voters who missed the last election.

The Ortiz-Gessler dispute might be part of the explanation for Gessler’s sky-is-falling response to what appears to be minor problem, involving ballots that may actually never be cast.

And, if they were submitted, the election system is designed to identify duplicate ballots and ensure that only one is counted, as Ortiz pointed out in KOAA-TV’s follow-up story.

Gessler’s response to Ortiz is very different from Gessler’s treatment of Teller County Clerk & Recorder J.J. Jamison’s acknowledged mistake last week of mailing 4,100 ballots that omitted a line for voters to sign their ballot. The signature on mail-in ballots is essential to protecting against voter fraud.

Here’s what Gessler told the Colorado Springs Gazette about Jamison’s mistake:

“We’ll be OK on this,” said Secretary of State Scott Gessler told the Gazette. “I know in about every election, somehow, some way, a mistake is made. People run elections and people make mistakes.”

KOAA-TV concluded its report in full breathlessness:

KOAA-TV: But how this error will impact the election…and voters’ confidence in our government, is yet to be seen.

With sloppy, hyperbolic reporting about a Secretary of State who fear mongers, maybe that’s true.

But if the facts about Colorado’s election system are reported, it’s more likely that voters will have a crisis of confidence in our Secretary of State, not our voting system.

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