UPDATE: Dr. Seth Masket of the University of Denver writes for Pacific Standard:
In one sense, this is an interesting case of civil disobedience: A citizen knowingly and publicly committed a crime to draw attention to a problematic law. In another, this is a pretty astounding case of a crime being manufactured to demonstrate the need to fight crime. While not quite on the level of manufacturing a galactic civil war to justify the creation of a Clone Army, this is still pretty striking, given the history of this particular issue…
Efforts to crack down on voter fraud, of course, have important consequences on subsequent elections, even if they do nothing to prevent actual fraud. Requirements for voters to bring photo identification to the polls, or efforts to limit who receives a mail-in ballot, tend to have a disparate impact on racial minorities and poorer voters. These voters tend to be strongly Democratic when they actually vote, so it’s hardly shocking that the parties have polarized on the issue of voter fraud.
But the specific case of voter fraud committed Saturday in Colorado is a pretty special one. Here’s an activist concerned about a loophole in a law that would allow people to vote outside their districts. Rather than point to the (so far nearly non-existent) illegal voters, he’s just voting illegally himself. If the statistics don’t support your case, be the statistic.
A sternly worded press release from Gov. John Hickenlooper's office this morning:
“We are hearing disturbing reports that some people are being encouraged to go to the polls, not to legitimately vote, but to disrupt the process. That would be unlawful and makes a mockery of the democratic process. [Pols emphasis]
“We urge the county clerks in Pueblo and El Paso counties to make clear that people engaged in attempting to disrupt the elections are open to criminal prosecution. We’ve also reached out to the Attorney General to help us ensure fair elections take place this week.”
The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels was first to report Independence Institute director Jon Caldara's appearance at an El Paso County polling location Saturday morning, as well as his intentions to do so Friday. Reporting today in the aftermath of Caldara's alleged felony act:
The governor’s spokesman, Eric Brown, on Sunday talked about “political stunts.”
“We share growing concerns that some people would rather pursue political stunts than respect election law,” Brown said. “Voting integrity and respect for law should be paramount in these recall elections. Coloradans deserve at least that much.”
El Paso County Clerk Wayne Williams said he’s excited Hickenlooper is now paying attention.
“It’s too bad he didn’t pay attention before he signed the fatally flawed law that compromised the integrity of the election system. Perhaps Gov. Hickenlooper should have listened to the testimony about the problems with HB13-1303 before signing it,” Williams said in a statement. “The ‘disturbing reports’ he cites are a direct result of his ignoring the concerns of citizens and signing fatally flawed legislation.”
Again, as we've been repeatedly assured, by numerous competent authorities we trust far more than El Paso County Clerk Wayne Williams, the above statement is false. The "problem" here is not with any flaw in the legislation passed this year. The only "flaw" at work is the reasoning of the Independence Institute's director, and his willingness to commit a crime in order to make a false point. If Williams does not refer this patently obvious case of vote fraud to the district attorney, and higher authorities are forced to step in to enforce the laws he will not, that's going to look very bad–for Williams, DA Dan May, everybody.
It's worth remembering that Clerk Williams was one of very few county clerks to oppose the election modernization bill in question which passed this year, House Bill 1303, and was written in large part by fellow county clerks from both parties. If you accept the opinion of most clerks that the bill is in fact well written, and the opinion of the Governor and many others that there is no "loophole" which allows for the fraud Caldara committed, the next logical question is why this particular county clerk is smugly refusing to enforce election law.
If you haven't noticed, open contempt for the law from certain public officials charged with enforcing it, from sheriffs and the state's gun laws to Clerk Williams and state's election laws, is starting to become a serious issue.