Protecting Voters From Scott Gessler

When the story first broke about Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s lawsuit to prevent Denver from mailing ballots to registered voters marked “inactive failed to vote,” the possibility of a legislative remedy was immediately raised–the situation, after all, was created by the expiration of a temporary requirement that these voters receive ballots passed by the legislature in 2008.

Gessler responded that in his view, no legislative fix was necessary–as has been amply demonstrated over the past two weeks, Gessler is completely fine with an estimated 1.2 million registered voters in the state of Colorado not receiving ballots this year.

Well, as you can imagine, that’s not sitting well in a lot of places, and as the Fort Collins Coloradoan’s Kevin Duggan reports, at least one Colorado municipality is taking matters into their own hands to the extent their authority permits them to:

Fort Collins voters who don’t participate in some elections would still automatically receive mail-in ballots for city elections under an ordinance headed to the City Council.

The proposed amendment to the city code would direct the city clerk to send mail-in ballots for municipal elections to registered voters even though they may be considered “inactive” under state law because they did not vote in the previous general election. [Pols emphasis]

The ordinance states that ballots would be sent to registered voters who participated in the last presidential election rather than the general election, which is conducted every two years.

In today’s Durango Herald, an editorial, while being extremely deferential to Gessler in presuming his good intentions, basically calls for him to stop everything he is doing:

First, mandate that ineligible voters receive ballots this year. If that’s an error, at least it’s an error in the right direction. [Pols emphasis] Give the largest number of voters possible an opportunity to participate in the electoral process while everyone tries to straighten out this mess.

Second, the Legislature needs to revisit the question. This year’s bill ending the requirement that ballots be sent to ineligible voters but not prohibiting that distribution is a recipe for confusion and unfairness. Someone – be it Gessler, who is the state’s election chief, or the legislative branch of state government – needs to step up and take responsibility for crafting a system that will best serve the largest number of eligible Colorado voters.

Third, voters should circumvent the entire argument. If you were registered to vote in Colorado in 2010 but didn’t, go to govotecolorado.gov to update your status. Do it quickly, before the third week in October. If you’re not sure of your status, log on to check. It’s easy, and it puts voters in control.

We assume they meant to say “inactive” where they said “ineligible voters.” In any event, it’s quite significant that they are calling for these ballots to be distributed to voters across the state this year, regardless of their “active” status–they’re talking about a lot more than Denver and Pueblo now. They’re talking about La Plata County. And all the other counties.

All told, we do believe a statewide fix for this is on the way, whether it’s a court order sooner (which would seem to be the only way for the Herald to get its way) or legislation next January. Either way, we feel pretty confident asserting it now, the solution will not be Gessler’s remedy of withholding ballots from registered voters.

8 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. ArapaGOPArapaGOP says:

    You understand this was what the clerks wanted, right? If you try to force this on them permanently they will rebel, and anybody who knows anything about elections in this state knows nothing gets passed unless the clerks support it.

    So good luck bringing down the system.

  2. Dan WillisDan Willis says:

    Remove the state statute that requires people to be marked inactive if they miss an election.

    Prior to each election, every registered voter is mailed something from the clerks office, whether it is a voter information card or a TABOR notice. There is already a law that people will be marked inactive if any such mailing is sent to them and then returned by the post office undeliverable. THESE are the people who should not be receiving ballots. They need to update their address before they cast their vote, if for no other reason, than to ensure they are voting in the right districts for the correct candidates and issues.

    • jbowen43 says:

      Postal carriers and clerks make mistakes.and misdeliver mail every day and customers compound the mistake by writing messages such as “not at this address” on the mail piece.

        • Dan WillisDan Willis says:

          Legislation can only cover so much.

          Errors being made is exactly why inactive voters remain registered. It is also why even “cancelled” voters remain in the computer, albeit not registered.

          Inactives are still eligible to vote. If they don’t get a ballot and believe they were supposed to, they could call the elections office and be told that a piece of mail was returned, they could then go online and update their voter record which would then prompt a ballot being sent them (if there is still time) OR they could go to a service center, correct their record and vote right there.

          Again, an imperfect world, but solutions are available.

  3. gaf says:

    We assume they meant to say “inactive” where they said “ineligible voters.

    That’s a pretty serious mistake for an editorial to make, and very unfortunate in that it feeds those who incorrectly equate “inactive” with “ineligible.”

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