UPDATE: The Denver Post’s John Frank:
“In retrospect we could have done a better job on the review of the individual lines and I think we all admit that,” said Judd Choate, the elections director in the secretary of state’s office. “And that’s why we are trying to develop better policies.”
At the same time, state election officials acknowledged that the scope of the controversy involving forged signatures is still unknown. The secretary of state’s office has not yet conducted a review of other petitions submitted by the same collector who submitted the questionable signatures for Keyser. [Pols emphasis]
“We haven’t looked at it,” Choate said.
“We haven’t looked at it.” That’s encouraging. Maybe the Secretary of State’s office can get around to doing their job later this summer.
Secretary of State Wayne Williams.
The office of Colorado’s Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams held a press conference today, to respond to this week’s shocking update in the ongoing scandal over forged petition signatures submitted on behalf of Senate candidate Jon Keyser: the revelation that Williams’ office was made aware of a deceased voter who had “signed” Keyser’s petition over a month ago, weeks before a local liberal group exposed the initial forgeries on May 3. As the Aurora Sentinel’s Chris Harrop reports:
Judd Choate, state election director in the Secretary of State’s office, addressed an array of questions Thursday, May 19, over the petition process after U.S. Senate candidate Jon Keyer’s campaign became embroiled in a controversy over forged signatures discovered on his petitions.
One signature in particular — that of Judy DeSantis, who died in January — was found on Keyser’s petition, dated March 28. An elections worker was notified of the anomaly in April, but the issue was not brought to the attention of Secretary of State Wayne Williams until Tuesday, May 17.
“Under state law we are permitted to evaluate the content of a signature … we are not permitted under state law to compare signatures,” Choate told reporters, explaining that the reporting procedures at the time did not call for checking the date of the signature against the date of the voter’s death.
“We would have no reason to believe they have done anything wrong here,” Choate said, later adding that “the assumption was that they had died after signing the petition.”
Readers will be pleased to learn that the Secretary of State’s office is moving to correct this rather stupefying gap in their signature verification process for petitions. Again, what we’re talking about is routine verification of a voters’ identity and valid signature that already occurs with actual ballots–just not with petition signatures. We know exactly what needs to be done to catch fraud like the forgeries in Keyser’s petitions, it simply wasn’t done due to the “cost and effort” involved. And because, well, the law didn’t say the Secretary of State had to.
From there, things got a bit more defensive:
As to the larger issue of signature verification, Choate said that his office is prohibited by law from taking that step while some county elections officials — such as those in Denver — have implemented signature verification under their county charters.
“It would require a change in law, we would need a statutory change … we have very, very limited authority to pursue someone for a violation like this,” Choate said.
Secretary of State spokeswoman Lynn Bartels added that the office does not have criminal prosecutorial authority. The forgery complaints to date have been referred to the Denver and Jefferson County district attorneys, respectively.
The problem is, the Secretary of State’s office is not who referred the overwhelming majority of evidence to prosecutors–a “liberal attack group” did that. The only item “referred” to investigators by Williams’ office to our knowledge was the deceased voter they reportedly knew about for a month, and we seriously doubt we would have ever heard about that were it not for the larger scandal. Excepting that action the Secretary of State’s office has mostly outright defended Jon Keyser, making assumptions about the case that investigators have in no way determined, and reaffirming with a shrug that Keyser is “on the ballot” regardless of any evidence of fraud that has been or might be uncovered.
In short, Williams has done very little to help resolve this situation, and a great deal to make it worse. He made it worse though his own ill-advised defense of Keyser, coupled with the belated admission his office failed: not just to catch these forgeries, but to heed warnings about forgeries and even dead voters coming from their own workers looking at Keyser’s petitions. And we can’t help but wonder what else may be out there we don’t yet know.
Everyone needs to do better next time, starting with the Secretary of State.