A story in this weekend's Denver Post from reporter John Aguilar discusses a voter registration ordinance up for debate in the Denver suburb of Westminster–a proposal that's attracting lots of conservative attention, being labeled a "political ploy" intended to help a Westminster city councilor in a bid for election. Let's unpack this silly-season story a little:
The proposed measure, which was given preliminary approval by Westminster City Council earlier this week, is prompting opposition from the apartment rental industry and from those who say that the duty of bolstering civic participation shouldn't fall on the private sector.
"It's the responsibility of the government, and not landlords, to facilitate voter registration," said Teo Nicolais, [Pols emphasis] a Denver resident who owns two rental properties in Westminster.
What we're talking about here is a proposal to require rental property landlords (and now municipal utilities to new homeowners, see below) to distribute a sheet with voting registration instructions to new residents. There's no requirement that landlords collect registrations or anything else, just to give out a piece of paper with instructions on registering to vote. Sounds pretty straightforward, right?
But Republican opponents, more often seen at state legislative hearings, are working overtime to kill this proposal ahead of final approval next month–with as much political agitating as a suburban city like Westminster ever sees.
Importantly, the Denver Post's story fails to disclose something that readers should know about witness Teo Nicolais. Teo is the younger brother of GOP election attorney and now Colorado state senate candidate Mario Nicolais. Mario is an election law attorney at the Hackstaff Law Group, which our veteran readers will recall used to be known by the name Hackstaff Gessler. As such, the elder Nicolais can often be found weighing in at strategic moments in defense of Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler's election law agenda. Back in 2013, Mario Nicolais was the attorney of record for a group called Citizens for Free and Fair Elections, which sent out highly controversial mailers against an election reform bill in the legislature using a photo in which African-American voters had been digitally removed.
It's curious, to say the least, to note how the same young Republican operatives, including an informal group known as the "iGOP," keep reappearing in partisan squabbles over election law in Colorado. One "iGOP" up-and-comer, GOP House candidate and attorney Jon Keyser, stumbled early in his campaign when he alleged with high drama that he had received "two ballots" for last year's elections. In truth, he received a "second ballot" only for a tax question related to rural property he owns, and most likely knew that the whole time.
And that brings us to Compass Colorado, the conservative advocacy group organizing the campaign against the Westminster voter registration ordinance:
Right-leaning Compass Colorado this week accused [Councilor Faith] Winter, a Democrat, of "naked political ambition." The group said Winter is using the measure to turn out more Democrats to the polls and strengthen her run for the state House.
But Winter rejects the accusation of political expediency on her part. She said the date of the rule's enactment has been changed from July 1 to Jan. 1 so that it would have no effect on the November election.
The measure would also include a requirement that voter registration materials not just reach renters, but new homeowners as well, by including instructions in the first utility bill, she said.
The executive director of Compass Colorado is another "iGOP" cadre, Kelly Maher. And that part above about homeowners getting voter registration information along with renters is curiously important to Maher:
— Kelly Maher (@okmaher) April 28, 2014
Not a bit of class warfare in that statement, is there? Also, even though the odds that Maher did not know exactly who Teo Nicolais is are pretty much nonexistent, here's what Maher Tweeted about Teo's testimony:
— Kelly Maher (@okmaher) April 29, 2014
Just another concerned citizen! It's as if Maher, Nicolais and friends think the Westminster City Council is, well, stupid? It seems to us like the full facts of this usual-suspect campaign against a very moderate proposal to help new residents to register to vote, and the prejudices revealed by their assumptions and arguments against it, won't look so great to Westminster councilors who just voted in favor 5-2.
But nice try, we suppose.