Head Games – Voting Rights 3, Head 0

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Victor Head, "Pueblo Plumber", recall proponent, and County Clerk candidate, has been lying again, and digging through trash for ballots to make the case that only he can prevent election fraud.  

HB1128 , Reduce Voter Identity Theft

In the State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee of the Colorado legislature, on February 12, Head testified on behalf of HB1128, a thinly-disguised "voter ID" bill. Szabo and Harvey were the sponsors. The bill, thankfully, is parked in the State committee, and unlikely to come out of it.

The facts were not with this bill. There is not, and never has been, a problem of "voter identity theft" in Colorado. Over the last 10 years, there have been no instances of someone voting under an assumed name. Yet, Head, with an eye on the Clerk position supervising elections in Pueblo, wants voters to believe that he  has expertise in this area, and will help protect us from the dreaded (but nonexistent) problem of voter identity theft.

In order to create a problem only he can solve, Victor Head lied again  in HB1128  hearing testimony.  He told Representative Salazar that signature cards weren't used in Pueblo County when Pueblans began voting in the Recall election. This is demonstrably not true.

According to County Clerk, Gilbert "Bo" Ortiz, "We have a signature card for everyone who voted in the recall election, and would be glad to show them to him." The distinctive yellow election cards  (example at right) were mailed out to every voter.  This made the voting process simpler and more efficient in the turbulent recall elections of November 2013. Like utility bills, the yellow voter cards  were upheld by Judge MacGeyhey to be a valid form of voter identification. However, HB1128 would have eliminated all but state issued photo ID.

Colorado is one of the states which does not require photo ID.

 

 

The Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights map, at left, shows which states have voter ID laws.

The legislators on the State, Military, and Veteran's Affairs Committee did not see a necessity for photo ID in Colorado, and HB1128 was postponed indefinitely on February 12, 2014.

 

 


 

HB1164 – Local Government Elections Bill

Our legislators then considered the next election bill, HB1164, "concerning nonpartisan county elections not coordinated by a County clerk and recorder."

HB1164, sponsored by Hullinghorst and Ulibarri,  created a

"Colorado Local Government Election Code” for the conduct of such elections by special districts, harmonizing residency requirements for voter registration, modifying the "Colorado Municipal Election code of 1965",and clarifying when elections are coordinated by county clerk and recorders.

Sounds pretty boring and harmless, right? The intent of the bill was to make sure that those off-year municipal and "special district" elections are conducted according to the same set of rules across Colorado. It also standardized best practices for implementing HB1303-, the Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act , specifically, mail in ballots, same-day voter registration, shortened residency requirements from 30 days to 22 days, so that every county has the same deadlines.

However, Marilyn Marks, of the Citizen Center, who has never met a high-turnout election she liked, Scott Gessler, Secretary of State and known HB1303-skeptic, and Jon Caldara, Independence Institute Head and famous voting fraudster, were predictably opposed to the "harmonizing residency requirements for voter registration"  and same day voter registration parts of the bill.

 Marks' Citizen Center organization declared that HB1164 will create "drive-by voters". Not much improvement from the last right wing hysteria about "gypsy" voters , "drive-by" voters sounds so gangsterish, so urban, so…you get the connotation Marks was aiming for. 

Scott Gessler initially supported HB1164, but withdrew his support on the last reading of the bill. Shocking. Victor Head testified that the bill would, hypothetically, create openings for fraud and election problems.

After days of debate, HB1164  passed its third reading in the Senate, and was signed by Governor Hickenlooper on February 18, in time for local election clerks to prepare for May elections.  For an excellent summary of how HB14-1164 will affect your specific city or town election, see the Colorado Municipal League page here.

As Rep. Hullinghorst said in the press release about HB1164,

“Colorado has a safe, secure elections system. Voter fraud is rare, but we will continue to work this year to pass laws that ensure every eligible voter has the right to vote while not tolerating anyone who tries to game the system."


 

SB 14-141, Suspend Until 2016 House Bill 13-1303 Provisions

Mr. Head's third and final (so far) attempt to establish his election supervising expertise and smack down Colorado voter's rights came in his testimony on SB14-141.  This latest assault on 13-1303, the Voter Access and Modernized Elections law, would have called a "time-out" on implementing 1303 for two years. If implemented, 14-141 would have thrown elections across the state into uncertainty and chaos, resulting in a hodgepodge of polling place, mail ballot elections, conflicting deadlines and voter registration guidelines.

Naturally, this means that Mr. Head must save us all from hypothetical voter fraud, by demonstrating how to (what else?) vote fraudulently. To make his point, Mr. Head actually dug through the trash at a Post Office, retrieved six discarded ballots, brought them to the SB14-141 hearing testimony, and opened one in the hearing. Head's testimony can be heard at 3:47 in this audio recording of session testimony on February 24, 2014. His point was that a potential vote forger could obtain a ballot the same way he did, mark an X on the voter signature line, forge a fraudulent witness signature, and Voila! a fool-proof fraudulent vote, which would not go through a signature check process.

Under questioning by Senator Herpin, Mr. Head said:

Senator Herpin (at 3:50:20): Where did you find those? Where'd you find a trash can….how did you find those?

VH at 3:50:28 These were at the post office. I went to check my my PO box, and saw quite a few of them laying in there. That's the other interesting part about this, is if you were really intent on finding these…I happened across these, and was like, "There's ballots in the trash can, that's kind of crazy. Grabbed em for future reference,to the post office, to check , and there they were in the trash can. Um, if you were to harvest them, so to speak, get out, on the day they go out…I picked these up, days afterwards, after they had been mailed initially. If you were to really harvest them, I don't know how many more you could get. I didn't try very hard, I kind of happened across these. "

I looked into whether Mr. Head had in fact, violated Federal Postal regulations by taking ballots out of a Post Office.

The relevant statute is 18 USC Section 1702. This statute is part of Chapter 83 of Title 18 of the federal code, which is concerned with crimes involving the U.S. Postal Service. This section is called Obstruction of Correspondence.

Under this statute it is only illegal to open mail addressed to someone else if you have taken it from the custody of the Postal Service. That means it is a crime to take a letter, package, postcard, or other item of mail from a Post Office, a mailbox of any kind, or from a postal carrier before the mail has been delivered, if you intend to prevent the mail from being delivered, pry into it, embezzle money, or destroy the mail. The statute is essentially about stealing mail from the Post Office.

So Mr. Head apparently commited no crime by taking other people's unclaimed ballots out of a Post Office, because they had been delivered, were unclaimed, and in the trash. However, he did clearly demonstrate that he is unfit for the office for which he is running, that  of County Election Clerk. A County Election Clerk works to keep the voter database up to date, including verifying voter changes of address. The main mechanism used to update addresses is via voters  logging on to the Secretary of State website to change an address, or by submitting a paper registration form.

A secondary mechanism to make the database more accurate is the return of undeliverable mail to the election office. By taking other people's ballots, and not returning them to the election office to update the addresses, and instead using the ballots to try to make a political point, Mr. Head demonstrated that he is not truly interested in improving elections. Additionally, had he actually forged a voter's signature, using the method that he painstakingly demonstrated for the Committee, he would have committed felony election fraud. It's hard to see how this makes him a great candidate for County Clerk. Generally, digging through trash for other people's discarded ballots is frowned on for that office.

There are simple fixes for the loose ballot problem, (not requiring disenfranchisement of thousands of Colorado voters). One would be to implement procedures to destroy or return discarded ballots from post office boxes and apartment mail centers.  Post Offices in Pueblo are implementing such procedures.

Colorado's election system is not perfect, but it is a model for best election practices around the country, according to the  Presidential Commission on Election Administration. There are reasons that Colorado has had historically high voter turnout, (71% in 2012).  Our Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act, sponsored by Senator Giron, is model legislation for other states interested in increasing voter participation.


Mail ballot elections, same-day voter registration, and ability to use various forms of ID to vote are all critical parts of HB1303.  Colorado voting rights are well served because HB14-141,  the planned two year moratorium on implementing 1303, died unmourned in the State Committee on February 24, 2013.

Mr. Head's participation in three legislative attempts to limit the voting rights of Coloradans is shameful, and unworthy of an aspiring election official. Thankfully, he's 0 out of 3 on that.

 

 

mamajama55

About mamajama55

Teacher in southern Colorado, wannabe political pundit and sometime activist.

13 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Duke CoxDuke Cox says:

    Nice work, mama. You never fail to impress.

    • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

      Thanks, Duke. Most people outside of Pueblo probably don't care much what Victor Head does; but he's definitely being used by the right wing to be the new grassroots everyman, as "Joe the Bogus Plumber" was used in 2008.

      I think it's significant that he's moved from "gun rights" to suppressing voting rights. A more direct route to political power, perhaps? Appealing to a larger, moderate base? I don't think we should dismiss Head, clownish as his antics are.

       

  2. dwyer says:

    SB14-144

    I am not sure about how this works:

    So Mr. Head apparently commited no crime by taking other people's unclaimed ballots out of a Post Office, because they had been delivered, were unclaimed, and in the trash – See more at: http://coloradopols.com/diary/54294/head-games-gun-rights-and-elections-in-colorado#comments

     

    How is a ballot or any mail delivered and then unclaimed????  I have a PO Box, and mail is delivered to the Box and I may pick it up only once or twice a month….there is not question of mail being "unclaimed" once it has been delivered to a PO Box.   Now, someone may open their PO Box, "claim" their mail and then throw out mail they don't want….such as so-called "junk mail" and maybe ballots might fall into that category.  The voter, in effect, is deciding not to vote.  But, again, in my post office there are not "open" trash cans or open dumpsters.  There are covered and secured recycling bins…that protect against dumpster divers and ID theft.

    Is Head suggesting that the Post Office is not delivering ballots, just trashing them?  That would be a case for the postal inspectors and would be a crime.

     There may be more to this than is immediately apparant.  I would presume that the committee is aware of procedures that the Post Office uses with ballots that are not delivered because of incorrect or expired addresses. I had assumed that they were returned to the County Clerk's office.

    Now, if my mail piles up in my PO Box, I get a notice in the PO Box and the extra mail is held for me and I pick it up when I go to the post office.  If there is limited space in the apartment center boxes, I can see a problem, but I am sure that the Post Office has procedures for handling that mail, I don't think it is summarily trashed just because the mail box is full.

     

    • dwyer says:

       I went and read the link to Colorado Peak and should have done that before commening.  The problem is twofold.  No mail should be left out unattended; that is how ID theft occurrs.  I don't know whether it is the Post Office's responsibility to educate the apartment dwellers how to handle mail misdirected to their boxes or the manager should post a notice. I can see a major problem with ID theft as well as the theft of money, etc. So, the first problem is a major problem of overall mail security.

      The second problem is that people may be deliberately throwing their ballots away and choosing not to vote.  Someone else using them, of course, would be a felony.

      As we move forward with all mail-in ballot elections, problems will occur that have to be addressed.  Oregon has had all mail-in ballot elections for years.

      I do think that these problems should not be ignored.

       

    • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

      dwyer,

      First of all, I think that Victor Head was lying. He does that. He didn't just "happen" to go check his PO box, and just "happen" to see ballots in the trash. All of the Post Offices I've been in have also had covered trash receptacles and recycle bins. 

      Removing the lid from one and rummaging through it should have been cause for a terrorist alert, one would think. 

      But a Post Master source did say that, if ballots were in the trash, they are fair game, as anything in anyone's trash may be gone through without a warrant, according to several legal precedents. There is no "expectation of privacy" in trash.

      What could have happened in the case of the ballots Head "found" is that a) an employee was cleaning out old inactive PO boxes that hadn't been paid for, and inappropriately dumped contents into the trash, and b) Head was informed that there were ballots for his "future use" lying around. Or, more likely, Head lied.

      United States post offices do have procedures for dealing with unclaimed mail, , i.e. return to sender, go to "dead letter office", or destroy, but which don't involve leaving it in open trash cans. Private postal centers and apartment vestibules, don't have procedures. Nevertheless, Todd Shepard of "Loose Ballots" fame ( he also testified at the hearing for 14-141, as did several other witnesses, all waving around and opening ballots which they had "found") was legally on shaky ground. 

      The Postal Statute I referenced said that it's a crime to interfere with mail "before it is delivered". Shepard and these other ballot-stealing yahoos didn't have any positive knowledge that the ballots could not be delivered. Sometimes former tenants come back to rentals weeks after moving out, to pick up mail. I've done it myself. So they potentially did interfere with delivery. 

      Head definitely took mail out of the custody of the Postal service, whether it had been in the trash or not, so I think he violated the law. I'm no lawyer, though, and the Postmaster whose business it is to know postal law thinks that no law was violated. 

      I don't think Head's "concern" with possible forgery (marking an X as if the voter were disabled, then forging a "witness" signature) is valid – I expect that those do get signature and address checked, if the voter had always signed and then suddenly marked an X.  

      If not, it can probably be tweaked with a software or procedures fix, not a two year moratorium on implementing an election law which, on the whole, is working well. 

      Probably more info than you wanted, but that's how I roll. 

  3. dwyer says:

    No, I appreciate all the information.  If this happened:

    ) Head was informed that there were ballots for his "future use" lying around. – See more at: http://coloradopols.com/diary/54294/head-games-gun-rights-and-elections-in-colorado#comments

     

    I would think that the Postal Inspectors should be checking this out.  Who would have "informed" Head that ballots were "availbable." The security of the mail is paramount.  It would appear that there is the possibility, and I stress possibility, that the security has been compromised.  Have you talked to any of the committee members who heard this testimony from Todd, et.al.? It would seem to me that they would have a fudiciary responsibility to follow up on what was being charged.  

    Ordinarily, one would automatically think that the Secretary of State should also be involved…..however, given the current Secretary of State it would be foolish, IMHO.

    • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

      I did write to Senators Aguilar and Ulibarri, since they sometimes write back, but haven't yet.  Herpin does not, and my own stand-in-for-a-Senator, George Rivera, never responds. 

      Rivera doesn't contribute a whole lot to policy discussions. On the burning issue of what should be the state cactus, Mr. Rivera's comment was: "That's a thorny issue." Har. Har. 

  4. dwyer says:

    Okay.  I would write Aguilar and Ulibarri but I am getting ready to be out of town until mid-March and I know that if I said I would write, I would not get it done.  I will when I get back.

     

  5. dwyer says:

    Just to clarify:  There were two incidents: The video was posted by Todd Shepherd showing ballots left out at his apartment house. And Head testified that he saw ballots tossed in the trash at a post office and took them.  Do I have that right?

    We live in an apartment complex and some buildings have had boxes for the outgoing mail broken into.  Right now, no one is to use the boxes that were supposed to be secure for placing outgoing mail. After looking at the video, my conclusion is that any potential thief could check out Shephard's address or may even be able to recognize the apartments, and now knows that mail is left out for anyone to take…Todd even pointed to a PERA check.  Not good, Todd.

    The ballots are probably the safest because of the double checks at county clerk offices, but ID theft and the theft of checks could be a real and horrible

    problem from the unsafe situation that Todd has thoughtfully pointed out and which evidently Head did not complain about.

  6. mamajama55mamajama55 says:

    Well, yes. Apartment vestibules are not where you want your mail hanging out.

    If you move, change your address right away – it costs $1 to do it online. If you rent a PO box for any reason, find out what happens to your mail if you don't pay the monthly fee, or can't claim your mail for some reason.

    Here's another tip: If you see Todd Shepherd*, who runs CompleteColorado, a conservative site, or Victor Head, coming your way, lock up your ballots, and secure your trash!

    * I did spell his name wrong earlier – my bad.

  7. dwyer says:

    I had an uncle who worked for the Post Office.  He was retired and gone long before email, etc. But I still remember how the mail was respected in those days.  I don't like the fact that the repubs are so adapt at manipulating the new election law. 

    Now that you shared your father's obit,  we know who your family is, mj55. The name is absolutely legendary in Denver and rightly so for all the good work beginning with the stand against white flight in Park Hill.  It makes me realize how old I am when you report that you still are waiting replies from State Senators and that you were frustrated in the Giron reply, because you did not have "ear" of the people making the decisions.  Sad.

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