Yesterday, Colorado Springs Gazette editor Wayne Laugesen published an editorial demanding a special session to "fix" the election modernization bill passed by the General Assembly this year, House Bill 1303. Republican opponents of this new law, which was written in large part by county clerks from both parties, have made a range of highly dubious claims about this bill, from warnings that it would facilitate "gypsy voting" by nonresidents to the bizarre assertion that ballots might arrive "from Chicago" and be legally cast in Colorado elections.
Jon Caldara of the right wing Independence Institute went so far as to cast a ballot in the recent Senate District 11 (Colorado Springs) primary, even though he has lived in Boulder for nearly 30 years. As we've explained based on sound legal opinions we've heard, Caldara's logic is fundamentally flawed, and he has exposed himself to criminal prosecution by falsely affirming his "residence" in Colorado Springs. It seems like part of the purpose of Laugesen's silly editorial is to run cover for Caldara's election fraud, but he doesn't even manage that as we'll explain.
Here are some of the major claims made by the Gazette yesterday about Colorado election law, with their debunking. We hope that at some point journalists will stop allowing this nonsense to be uncritically repeated by their outlets, to include their editorial boards:
The new law undoes traditional checks and balances that have kept elections fair. Gone are assurances that only lawful residents of a jurisdiction get to vote in an election. Before HB1303, only the tinfoil hat crowd worried much about election fraud. Today, with HB1303, it's a legitimate concern…
Now first of all, we're pretty sure Laugesen just accused Secretary of State Scott Gessler and a whole lot of other Republicans who do indeed "worry about election fraud" of being members of the "tinfoil hat crowd!" Setting that aside for a moment, Laugesen is wrong–House Bill 1303 does not eliminate "assurances that only lawful residents of a jurisdiction get to vote in an election." Voting fraud is today–and always has been–a felony. Same day registration doesn’t remove any checks and balances, and actually isn't all that new. As the Secretary of State's office itself explained, the law allows voters to cast a ballot after they have already moved to the district and their address is verified.
We know the law can be abused, which is obvious to anyone who reads it. Any question about the biggest flaw in HB1303 was eliminated when Jon Caldara, a Boulder resident and president of Colorado's Independence Institute, cast a blank ballot in the District 11 recall to make a point.
You might recall during the debate over gun safety legislation in the General Assembly this year, a key contention by opponents was that "criminals don't care about laws." This argument always dumbfounded us, because it's a completely ridiculous tautology–of course criminals "don't care about laws," that's why they're criminals. But here we have one of the same people who made this ridiculous argument, that criminals don't follow laws, calling for–wait for it–stricter election laws! Because–wait for it–it's possible to break the law! We agree Caldara is a great example of the problem of people breaking laws.
That was a high-profile stunt, and authorities could do nothing to stop it because of HB1303.
If someone swears under penalty of perjury that something is true, generally that sworn statement is accepted by whoever is asking for it. If it is determined that a person lied under penalty of perjury, they then can be prosecuted. That didn't change with House Bill 1303. Caldara committed a felony by pretending to move to Colorado Springs and casting a ballot in the recall election. As we've explored in detail, it was obviously never Caldara's "intention" to move to Colorado Springs. So he committed a felony. The threat of felony prosecution is now, and has always been, the principal deterrent to election fraud.
Traditionally, one had to have roots in a community before voting in it. Not now. The wording below clearly shows that one can show up in a jurisdiction on the day of an election and vote with nothing more than an "intention" of making the place a permanent home…
This gives almost any Coloradan – especially those among us who are willing to lie – an easy opportunity to vote in local elections.
We're kind of amazed to see such unthinking nonsense coming from the editor of a major newspaper. Folks, we hate to break this to you if you didn't already know it, but people who are "willing to lie" can vote wherever they want. They are committing a felony if they do, just like they were before House Bill 1303. If this seems obvious to you, it's probably because you are smarter than a proverbial fifth grader.
As for "roots in the community?" Before House Bill 1303, a voter had to live in the district they voted in for a whopping 29 days. Under House Bill 1303, it's 22 days resident in-state, a person must have already moved to the district, and their intention must be to remain in the district. Now, it's possible that Laugesen is referring to some other kind of long-ago "tradition," back in the days of poll taxes or literacy tests? But if he's discussing the laws Colorado has used for elections since well before House Bill 1303, the residency requirement was always 29 days. We have no idea what kind of "roots in the community" one can establish in 29 days, but we'd say probably not very damned much.
Want to pass or kill a local school tax? Bring in voters willing to state an "intention" to move. Want to undo a municipal gun law? Ask impassioned gun-rights activists to show up and state their intentions to move.
In a hurry? Run a stop light. Want more money? Rob a bank.
Please remember that there are consequences if you do.
Even if county officials can prosecute, they have no good means of detecting such activity.
Again, this is just not true. Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert "Bo" Ortiz was able to show inquiring reporters that there had only been 39 same-day registrants in the SD-3 primary out of some 11,000 votes that had been cast by that time. According to Ortiz, it's no problem to track these registrations, and anyone he suspects of voter fraud will be turned over to the local distract attorney. Laugesen says that such prosecutions can't "undo the damage" of voter fraud, but how could they ever? How can you un-commit any crime?
This concludes today's lesson in remedial critical thinking, which unfortunately newspaper editors are not required to pass. We'll be happy to recount this as many times as necessary, but we hope–probably in vain–that the Wayne Laugesens of the world get their facts straight first.