UPDATE: Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler praises the decision in a brief statement:
“As Colorado’s chief election official, protecting our elections is my top priority. I’m pleased that DHS has agreed to work with states to verify the citizenship of people on the voter rolls and help reduce our vulnerability. Coloradans deserve to know we have these most basic protections for election integrity.”
There are conflicting opinions this morning about the full meaning of a decision this weekend by the federal Department of Homeland Security to cooperate, with important restrictions, with the state of Florida’s request for information on non-citizens their Republican governor and Secretary of State believe may be illegally registered to vote. Politico reports today on what will soon most likely be a major story in Colorado:
Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Monday an agreement between the Sunshine State and the Department of Homeland Security “creates a path” for other states to purge their voter rolls of non-citizens.
An agreement Sunday between DHS and Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner gives Florida access to the federal SAVE – Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements – database, which should allow the purge to restart. The database lists legal immigrants and green card-holders who aren’t eligible to vote. It doesn’t contain the names of illegal immigrants…
“The right to vote is a sacred right,” Scott said. “We gotta make sure a U.S. citizen’s right to vote is not diluted.”
…Five presidential swing states – Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, Colorado and Nevada – are among those hoping to use the DHS database to check their own voter rolls, according to CNN and the Associated Press.
“Hopefully,” Scott said, the agreement “creates a path for other states that have the same concerns.” [Pols emphasis]
We talked this past weekend about the related request from Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler for access to information about some 5,000 registered voters he believes may be illegally registered. Based on a “spot check” of immigration detainee records from local jails, Gessler found 85 possibly illegally registered voters, 29 of whom may have voted since 2010. We haven’t seen any response from Gessler yet to DHS’s agreement with Florida, but there’s a possibility that he won’t find it adequate. Even if he does, everything we said about the possibility of “matching mistakes” made by Gessler doing harm in excess of the “gain” of purging a tiny number of illegal voters applies–mitigated only by the restrictions from DHS impeding that.
Like we said, this is more a question of motives. Previous evidence submitted by Gessler has been found wanting based on the normal rate of naturalization of new citizens. Gessler’s “spot check” uncovered possible problem registrations that, while important, must be put in perspective with all kinds of benign errors that occur in every election. How many babies can tolerably be thrown out with the proverbial bathwater? Is one too many?
Gov. Rick Scott makes clear above which side of the debate he’s arguing from, “dilution,” and Gessler will no doubt agree–with Colorado’s GOP Attorney General John Suthers. A different variable in Colorado is the fact that our governor is a Democrat, and John Hickenlooper could change the game here if he decides to start questioning the process (or motives).
We’ll update when we have a clearer sense what this fluid story means here in Colorado.