Archive for April, 2013

Columnist can’t cite evidence to support assertion that election-day registration favors Dems

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

In The Denver Post over the weekend, former State Senate President John Andrews wrote that if Colorado has election-day voter registration, as proposed in the election-modernization bill winding its way through the State Legislature, Democrats would “presto” have “tilted the electoral playing field permanently their way. Republican chances for regaining power and repealing any of this stuff will fade.”

Presto? As in presto-change-o?

The “presto” part I get, because the new law would give people the opportunity to register to vote, presto, upon presenting themselves (and proper documents) at a polling center through Election Day. It would also give every voter the chance to, presto, vote with a mail-in ballot as well as the option of, presto, voting in person at vote centers.

But the “change-o” part baffles.

How is this going to change the political universe here? I looked, and I couldn’t find any evidence that election-day voter registration would make the electoral playing field go blue–or black with fraud.

So I was excited to hear about the evidence Andrews had to support his column.

“I have not done research on it,” he told me.

I was crushed.

But that doesn’t stop Andrews from saying: “Same-day registration is going to make the process of voting more emotion-driven and less reliably honest, and that favors Democrats.”

“Democrats are a lot better at finding people who sign up on that basis [with same-day registration], and some may be legal voters and some might not be,” Andrews said, adding that he doesn’t mean to “demonize anyone” because “people have different opinions.”

So, I asked Andrews, your view is based on your experience here in Colorado?

Yes, he said, along with his trust in Secretary of State Scott Gessler and former State Sen. Mark Hillman, who share Andrews’ “alarm.”

If you talk to Andrews repeatedly, as I have over the years, you know that he usually takes a conversation about a slice of public policy, like election-day registration, and broadens it to discussion about human motivations or political philosophy. It’s fun, but sometimes it scares you.

In this case, Andrews said he doesn’t think Colorado should go to “great lengths to turn everybody out to vote.”

“People who demonstrate what economists call ‘rational ignorance,’ I don’t want those people voting,” he said.

“I’m a believer that voting should be more deliberative.”

Democrats, he said, are more inclined to be “emotional” about a political campaign or “snowed by an ad campaign,” while Republicans, he says are more “fact-based.”

Thus he believes election-day registration favors Democrats, and my point that there’s no evidence to support his position didn’t seem to bother Andrews at all.

Heck’ve-A-Job Brownie is against immigration bill and offers no alternative

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

Michael “Heck’ve-A-Job” Brownie took to the airwaves Monday to slam Sen. Michael Bennet for promoting the immigration bill that Congress is currently considering.

On his KHOW show, Brown called the bill a “bologna bill” and said he’s “so tired of the BS” from Bennet and others, like Bennet’s statement in an email, quoted by Brownie, that the bill is “our best chance in a generation to fix our broken immigration system.”

Bennet “doesn’t give a rat’s ass about immigration,” Brown said, adding that the bill does “nothing to secure the borders” and “Boston ought to be telling them to secure the borders first, and do everything else later.”

Brownie overlooks the fact that, guess what, the bill stipulates that no one goes down the pathway to citizenship until the border is demonstrably secured, as Sen. Marco Rubio tried to explain to Brownie in an interview with Brownie Thursday.

Rubio told Brownie that the bill “creates a program whereby if the [Department of Homeland Security] doesn’t achieve 90% apprehension rate..then control goes to border state governors to finish the job.”

“I guess it’s my experience within the Department of Homeland Security,” Brownie said on air Monday, “I simply do not trust the system to work.”

Great. He doesn’t trust the system to work. So what’s his alternative?

“I don’t have all the answers,” he said Monday. “…it’s going to take some sort of radical action.”

OK. So when the Brownies of the world come up with their solution, even if it’s some sort of radical action, they should tell us about it. Meanwhile, we can assume they favor doing nothing.

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.

Audio recording of panel focusing on innovative journalism projects in Colorado

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Here’s an audio recording of a panel at the National Conference on Media Reform, poorly moderated by yours truly, but, more importantly, addressing how journalists in Colorado are creating innovative journalism projects.

The participants were Laura Frank, Sam Fuqua, Ann Imse, Kurtis Lee, and Tony Shawcross. Click here to listen.

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.

Media Omission: Gun activist Pratt calls on Colorado sheriffs to arrest federal officials if necessary

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

Larry Pratt, Executive Director of Gun Owners of America, praised Weld County Sheriff John Cooke recently for taking a “very strong stand on what he thinks the limits of the Federal government are.”

Speaking to Greeley talk show host Scooter McGee, Pratt, who’s in Colorado now to support the recall effort of State Rep. Mike McLachlan, said some sheriffs around the country are ready to arrest federal officials if, in the sheriffs’ views, they are violating the U.S. Constitution.

PRATT Well, I’m very encouraged by the number of sheriffs that–it’s at least pushing 400 now, that have said– there’s a spectrum. At a minimum, they’re saying they’re not going to cooperate with any unconstitutional gun grabs that the federal government might participate in. And at the other end of the spectrum, sheriffs are saying, “Not only will I not cooperate, but if the Feds are doing something unconstitutional in my county, particularly a gun grab, I’ll put them in jail.” But they’re also addressing other issues where the Feds act unconstitutionally and threaten to incarcerate citizens of their county, the sheriffs are interposing themselves and saying, “If you try to do that, you don’t have authority, and you’re not going to do that in my county, and if you try it, I will arrest you.” This has happened in confrontations with the Forest Service, BLM, the Food and Drug Administration, and of course, the ATF – the gun police.

In a column in the Cortez Journal Monday, Montezuma Country Sheriff Dennis Spruell echoed Pratt’s comments, writing that if sheriffs “think a state or federal law contradicts the Constitution, they are under no obligation to enforce it.”

It wasn’t clear if Pratt thought Cooke would actually arrest federal officials, or if Spruell would arrest them, if necessary to enforce their views of the U.S. Constitution, so I called Cooke and Spruell to find out. Cooke did not return my call immediately, but Spruell said, “I swore an oath to the Constitution, but there’s no law that says I can arrest someone who violates the Constitution.”

In his radio interview, Pratt went on to point to a specific example of a situation, in addition to stopping alleged gun grabs, when Sheriffs need to exert their power and arrest the feds–when the Department of Education sends in a SWAT team to collect student loans.

PRATT: Well, it can get pretty absurd. There was a case last year, a young woman looked outside and realized that her residence was completely surrounded by the Men in Black. And when all the commotion finally subsided, it turned out that that was the Department of Education SWAT team, and they were coming for her because she was delinquent on her education [loans]. McGEE: Oh, on her student loans! PRATT: Exactly. Now, the fact that in the past creditors were able to garnish your wages, put a lien on if you own your house, repo[ssess] your car–. Those are actually sensible, measured, equivalent responses to the problem. But now, if they have a SWAT team, they figure they got to use it, or else why do we ask the taxpayers to spend all this money on – McGEE: And, when it comes to budgets, remember we spent a hundred and fifteen thousand dollars last year and we increase the budget every year and we have to justify it by spending it, and using it and—oh, my god, Larry. You’re absolutely right, again. PRATT: So, off we go and the Department of Education is now using a SWAT team to collect delinquent student loans. Frankly, that’s where we need sheriffs. The sheriff needs to come in and say [affecting a ‘good ol’ boy, southern accent], “Boy, I don’t think you ought to be doing that.” And make sure that the boys understand that the sheriff is serious as a heart attack, that he is just talking smooth, and that he is not going to let them do that.

The Durango Herald will live stream a speech by Pratt in Durango today at 6:30 p.m.. He’s in Colorado in support of efforts to recall State Rep. Mike McLachlan.

What’s up with label-loving Coffman joining a “No Labels” group?

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

Rep. Mike Coffman announced last week that he’s joining “No Labels’ Problem Solvers — a group of 56 Democrats and Republicans committed to meeting regularly across the aisle to build trust and talk about solving problems.”

Some labels, like the label of “citizen” for Obama, have bugged Coffman in the past.

But mostly he’s been as label-friendly as a politician gets in Colorado, labeling Social Security a “Ponzi scheme,” trying to add the label “forcible” to rape, labeling the flat tax as something that has “tremendous value,” labeling the expansion of Medicare under Obamacare as “very radical,” wanting to put the label of “president” of the United States on Gov. Rick Perry. (Conversely, Personhood USA labeled Coffman a “statesman” for standing firm against abortion for rape and for any other reason.)

All this heavy-duty labeling makes you wonder why Coffman would want to join a group called the “No Labels’ Problem Solvers.” Much less be able to get away with it, under scrutiny from the media.

I wondered if a journalist had challenged Coffman on it, and I found that almost nothing had been written about Coffman’s apparent decision to throw his sharp labeling skills out the window.

Some reporter has to call him on this. Coffman has built a reputation in Colorado for saying controversial stuff, often with serious partisan labels attached. What’s up?

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?