Gessler’s 29 Maybe-Illegal Voters: Don’t Take The Bait

In your Friday news dump yesterday, this brief AP story:

Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler is investigating 85 people who may have been illegally registered to vote.

A spokesman for Gessler says jail records are being checked for people being detained as illegal immigrants to see if they match names in the state’s voter database.

Which points back to yesterday’s Denver paper, where reporter Sara Burnett covers a “spot check” done by Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s office into the possibility of noncitizens being registered to vote. In his latest attempt to uncover what he insists in the absence of much evidence is a major problem, Gessler’s office checked immigration detainees in Colorado with voter rolls, and found 85 persons who appear both in that list and a list of registered voters. Of that 85, some 29 are marked as “active” voters, meaning they appear to have voted since 2010.

We haven’t heard anything yet about the matching methodology used by Gessler’s office to match these names; the precision (or lack thereof) could potentially validate or severely undermine Gessler’s contention right there. As quoted in the Denver paper, voting rights groups like Mi Familia Vota and Common Cause aren’t taking issue with the specific assertion that 29 people may have voted illegally, but pointing out the “bad use of resources” given the small number relative to millions of votes cast in any general election. 29 votes out of 1.6 million cast in 2010 would be well below the rate of many other kinds of election errors that benignly occur.

This is taking place as Gessler, with help from fellow Republican Attorney General John Suthers, press the Department of Homeland Security for access to immigration records on some 5,000 voters Gessler finds questionable based on the fact that they may have presented noncitizen documents when they received their driver’s license. Many of you will recall the fight Gessler waged unsuccessfully in the legislature and the media in 2011, when opponents noted that “possible noncitizen registered voters” he introduced as evidence then could be fully accounted for by the number of Colorado residents who became U.S. citizens afterwards.

Our view: Democrats need to be careful about pooh-poohing the significance of any number of potentially illegal voters–not because the small number isn’t a valid point, it honestly is. But the rhetorical counter from Gessler, that his job is to ensure the integrity of voter rolls, and that even one illegal voter dilutes everyone else’s vote, will have purchase with a lot of voters.

Democrats need to talk about this in terms of effort expended versus the potential gain–and what that says about Gessler’s real motives. Despite the ambitious timeline given to the Department of Homeland Security, there’s an honest question whether his office could complete the process of checking these registrations before the deadline next month protecting voter registrations from cancelation under federal law. Errors in that process could result in valid voter registrations being canceled with little time to remedy the situation.

Bottom line: it’s not that 29 maybe-illegal voters should be dismissed out of hand as irrelevant, or whatever likely very small percentage of the 5,000 voters Gessler wants to scrutinize might turn out to be faulty. But put in perspective with both the total number of votes cast in any election, and all the other ways ballots are miscast, misplaced, or miscounted in an election, it becomes a question of justifying the effort expended. And given the “mistakes” Gessler could make against perfectly legal voters right before an election, a question of justifiable harm.

17 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Gray in Mountains says:

    making govt workers, primarily jail personnel and deputies, underpaid if in rural counties, fill out another damn useless form because our immature SOS doesn’t have enough real work he is willing to do. He ought to use his budget to visit all of these jails and see who is there if he is so curious. Were I a local sherrif I’d either refuse to comply or send him a list EVERYDAY of every person incarcerated  

  2. Gray in Mountains says:

    of everyone who has an exploding toilet and check them

  3. LakewoodTodd says:

    Juan Garcias are going to get disenfranchised because of this Secretary of State’s agenda?

  4. davebarnesdavebarnes says:

    “it’s not that 29 maybe-illegal voters should be dismissed out of hand as irrelevant”

    Yes, you should say 29 is meaningless.

    Unless, of course, they all live in Alma.

    29. Out of 2+M.

    This is pure grandstanding.

  5. GalapagoLarryGalapagoLarry says:

    Gessler’s? Well lemme see. I’ll pull one list out of my ass. Then I’ll pull the other one, well, I guess, out of my ass. And then I’ll pull together some numbers, hmmm…out of my ass.

  6. nancycronknancycronk says:

    Gessler, with help from fellow Republican Attorney General John Suthers, press the Department of Homeland Security for access to immigration records on some 5,000 voters

    Gessler is doing exactly what Governor Jan Brewer did in  Arizona until she was caught — attempting to use state resources to do the job of a federally agency — ICE.  

    • parsingreality says:

      Lots of pee pee running down these mis-governor legs.

      At least, HS said that “Alien numbers” also had to be used in the crosses, not just name and DOB.  

      Of course, as any good patriotic Uhmurican knows, that means them pesky illegals can still register to vote willy nilly.  

  7. Can’t wait to get rid of this clown in 2014. Whenever I see him on television, I just get this vibe of someone who’s in wayyyyy over their heads.

    Here’s to hoping the dems have a kick-ass candidate for SoS in 2014

  8. BlueCat says:

    their hair would be on fire over all those dirty tricksters who try to fool less experienced voters into missing their opportunity to vote with tricks such as telling voters the voting date has changed or is Wednesday for Dems, or the polling place has changed, or they will be arrested if they try to vote with any outstanding tickets, etc.

    They would be all over any election officials who appear to be loading up precincts that lean toward one party with voting booths while shorting precincts that lean toward the other party. They’d be focusing like a laser on efforts to overwhelm one party’s call lines for rides to the polls. These techniques affect many magnitudes more voters than the tiny number of non-citizens who may succeed in voting. They haven’t proved any have done so, so far.

    Anyone who still seriously believes this is about fair elections and not a desperate rear guard voter suppression action to stave off inevitable demographic change for a few more election cycles isn’t paying attention. Heck, a GOP pol in Pennsylvania is bragging that their voter ID law will give Romney the win. The guy isn’t even pretending it has anything to do with fair elections.

    And one more presidential election is all they’ll need to get a Supreme Court that will make it impossible for working Americans to get close to any significant political power again in the foreseeable future. More Obama justices and within another cycle or two the party’s over for the GOP.  Dems need to realize that this isn’t just  voter suppression, it really is a death match. The GOP does.

    • Duke Coxdukeco1 says:

      Dems need to realize that this isn’t just  voter suppression, it really is a death match.

      This is not a game of dodge ball…this is the gunfight at the OK corral. The stakes couldn’t be higher.

  9. thiokuutoo says:

    The most serious and blatant illegal voters are Republicans voting illegally to show how to vote illegally.

  10. If SoS Gessler can find 29 voters that shouldn’t have voted and remove them from the roles, that’s great.

    If he removes 1 legal voter from the roles because of it, that’s unacceptable.  In this country, the right to vote is enshrined in the Constitution; denying it is a violation of the duties of the Secretary of State’s office.

  11. ScottP says:

    He wants DHS to hurry up and fulfill his urgent request to compare names on voter registrations. This is not something DHS hurries up to do.

    Does it fall under their scope? Yes. Is it more important than terrorism, border security, human trafficking and cybersecurity? No.

    That’s like asking your local law enforcement to drop everything because your neighbor’s yard isn’t up to code.

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