Vote Fraud: The Great Nothingburger of 2014

James OKeefe, wearing a Mark Udall sticker.

James O’Keefe, wearing his Mark Udall sticker.

As the Denver Post's Joey Bunch reports:

This campaign season, Colorado's new mail-ballot voter law has drawn the national sideshow attention of cable news and opinion, AM radio and even a sting by conservative provocateur James O'Keefe — all focused on the notion that Tuesday's outcome could be tainted.

But perception hasn't been reality, according to election officials on both sides of the deep political divide who report only a routine percentage of challenged signatures, undeliverable ballots and reports of alleged shenanigans.

Mesa County Clerk Sheila Reiner said the lack of actual trouble is largely because voting by mail is nothing new. It's been an option for Colorado voters since 1992. And in the 2012 general election, 73 percent of Coloradans cast mail ballots.

"What's different is we have a party that's made allegations of fraud part of its platform," Reiner, a Republican who is president of the Colorado County Clerks Association, said of some members of her party. [Pols emphasis]

In addition to the increased overall turnout in this midterm, the apparent success of House Bill 13-1303 is a major blow to perennial Republican allegations of "massive voter fraud" either being planned or perpetrated by Democrats in this state. Ginning up voter fraud fears outside Colorado was the purpose of right-wing provocateur James O'Keefe's "sting" of two low-level third party organization GOTV groups in October.

O'Keefe's video of himself leading a couple of field hands into agreeing with his hamfisted plot to commit voter fraud–a plot that would fail due to verification procedures in place in every county clerk's office–made the rounds within the national right-wing mediasphere, but the story never caught on here in Colorado or with national mainstream media. The reason is simple, as Bunch continues–it's not happening.

[C]lerks note that each ballot is screened to make sure the signatures match voter registration records. And so far the numbers of signatures that have been flagged by election judges as incorrect matches are roughly the same as they were in the 2012 general election in El Paso, Denver, Mesa and Pueblo counties checked by The Denver Post on Friday…

El Paso County's clerk and recorder, Wayne Williams, the Republican nominee for secretary of state, appeared on the Fox News Channel on Tuesday night to talk about his concerns that a ballot in every household, regardless of what the voter prefers, would open the way for undue influence by others in the home.

"We haven't seen any significant issues in this county," he said Friday. [Pols emphasis]

Even outgoing Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler, who led the fact-challenged assault of House Bill 13-1303 and who has alleged widespread voter fraud throughout his term in office without supporting evidence, has been forced to acknowledge the lack of actual problems with the law as it's been implemented–other than complaining about the "Herculean effort" his office made to develop the statewide electronic pollbook, another key fraud prevention check that appears to be working fine.

This is worth keeping in mind, given the shift in ballot returns that began yesterday to favor Democrats. There is a well-established narrative today that Republican victory is "inevitable," even as the polls tighten and the ballot returns turn against them in the final days. If Democrats emerge victorious, as happened in 2010 and 2012 under very similar conditions, we expect the cries of "vote fraud" to become quite loud and obnoxious. Consumers of conservative media have likely heard about O'Keefe's little sting, but will never read this story or the others that disprove him.

If Democrats do prevail, some conspiracist diehards will never be convinced it wasn't fraud. But should it happen this way as it has before, try to explain this stuff to the reasonable people in your life.

Ballot Return Momentum Swinging–Right Now, Right On Cue

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FOX 31's Eli Stokols has smart analysis up today about what's really going on with ballot returns in Colorado:

Much is being made of the Republicans’ voter registration advantage in Colorado’s early voting, which inched from 104,000 Saturday to 106,000 on Sunday, seemingly a sign of yet another contested U.S. Senate battle tilting toward Republicans.

But election observers from Denver to Washington, DC would be wise to pay attention to another figure: that voter registration margin as a percentage of the overall vote.

As more votes come in, what was a 10-point GOP edge last week has slipped a little bit with each new early voting report from the Secretary of State, down to 9.2 percent Thursday, 9 percent Friday, 8.6 percent Saturday and now 7.9 percent Sunday.

As we’ve seen over several election cycles in Colorado, the early voter registration numbers can be deceiving; and the early Election Night returns often reflect few of the ballots cast over the final days of the race, offering little indication of how a race will end.

The last few elections in Colorado have given us a primer on what to expect this year, which is why Democrats have not seemed as nervous as one might expect as the GOP posted an early lead: Republicans reliably get their mail ballots returned promptly, which makes their numbers look good early. But as we approach Election Day, the pattern switches, and Democrats rapidly close the GOP's lead. By Election Night?

Well, based on 2012 and 2010, we know what's likely to happen on Election Night. Democrats outperform the public polls, and win on the strength of their late-inning ground game. And as the New York Times' Nate Cohn reports, that's exactly what's happening–right before our eyes once again.

Registered Democrats outnumbered registered Republicans by three points over 80,000 received ballots on Saturday. It was the first time that Democrats outpaced Republicans, and it was enough to narrow the Republican advantage to eight points, 40 to 32…

Democratic gains were underpinned by a continuation of the favorable demographic trends that had allowed them to whittle away at the G.O.P.'s percent margin over the last week. Voters under age 45 bumped up to 31 percent of returns.

Voters who didn’t participate in 2010 reached 33 percent of Saturday’s tallies, also a first.

The margin for Democrats to overcome this year is greater these the two previous general elections, but the impact of 100% mail balloting for every registered voter has yet to be fully understood in the context of those prior results. Likewise with same-day voter registration, though that seems very likely to work against Republicans in the same way mail ballots work for the GOP in early returns. The bottom line is that anyone telling you that this election "is over" by any stretch is misleading you for a very specific purpose.

Not only is this election far from over, the same dynamics that brought Democrats victory here in prior years are taking shape as we write this.

Tuesday night, and not a moment before, we'll know if it was enough.

Scenes From The Front Lines

Lots of photos from the final Saturday before the election on social media this evening, which has seen hundreds if not thousands of volunteers in the field getting out the vote. A sampling follows–perhaps you're in one of these? If you're reading a political blog on this beautiful weekend, you ought to be.

Post your photos in comments, or email alva@coloradopols.com.

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Weekend Open Thread

"Do not trust the cheering, for those persons would shout as much if you or I were going to be hanged."

–Oliver Cromwell

Put the Stamps Away and Drop Off Your Ballot

Remember, folks, that ballots must arrive at the county clerk's office prior to 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday; the postmarked date is irrelevant in this case.

To find your ballot drop-off location, go to JustVoteColorado.org.

For Denver voters, ProgressNow has developed a cool text message system that allows voters to find the nearest 24-hour ballot drop location. To use this free service, Denver voters can text DROPOFF to 30644.

dropoff

 

Coffman Not a Good Debater in Spanish, Either

Denver Post reporter Jon Murray, top, and Associated Press reporter Nick Riccardi Tweeting during yesterday's debate.

Denver Post reporter Jon Murray, top, and Associated Press reporter Nick Riccardi Tweeting during yesterday’s Spanish-language debate in CD-6.

Yesterday Republican Rep. Mike Coffman and Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff participated in the first Spanish-language debate in Colorado history.

While Coffman seemed to have trouble with the language — his campaign has backpedaled significantly from touting Coffman's Spanish-language prowess — he nevertheless managed to flip-flop on a key issue. In 2011, Coffman proposed amending the Voting Rights Act to eliminate the requirement that ballots be printed in different languages. It was a surprise, then, when Coffman stated his belief that bilingual ballots are important. As Jason Salzman noted, this appears to be the first time Coffman has ever offered a different position on bilingual ballots.

For a good rundown of the entire event, we turn to the Aurora Sentinel:

Republican incumbent Mike Coffman, a recent student of Spanish, did his best to keep up with the language skills of his Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff. Due to his time as a Peace Corps volunteer in Costa Rica, Romanoff is fluent in Spanish and used his familiarity with the language to go on the offensive at Coffman’s expense, attacking his record of historically voting against policies intended to reform immigration laws. Coffman didn’t offer much defense to Romanoff’s barbs and appeared to stick to a prepared set of talking points, frequently glancing at the podium in front of him. He touted his backing of a military version of the DREAM act, called the ENLIST act, which would allow for children brought to the U.S. illegally to become members of the military and obtain citizenship…

“Does Congressman Coffman really think memorizing a new script is enough to mask the harm he’s done to the Hispanic community throughout his career?” Romanoff said in a statement after the debate. “Mr. Coffman’s record doesn’t sound any better in Spanish.”

At the end of the debate, Romanoff said his comments and philosophies were heartfelt and Coffman was providing nothing more than a “script.” The comment drew audible response from the audience. [Pols emphasis]

If you weren't already aware, both candidates received the questions in advance of the debate at the request of Coffman's campaign — which was obvious throughout the debate as Coffman largely repeated memorized responses. Coffman supporters like to say how nice it is that Coffman is trying to learn Spanish, and while that sentiment carries some truth to it, Coffman is clearly getting more credit than he deserves for his Spanish-language skills. Agreeing to debate in Spanish was a noble effort by Coffman, we suppose, but he's obviously not fluent enough to participate in a forum of this nature.

We've said it before after watching numerous other debates between Coffman and Romanoff, but it bears repeating here as well: If debates decided the outcome of elections, Romanoff would be on his way to a blowout victory on Tuesday. Perhaps there is a third language in which Coffman could win a debate with Romanoff, but you can mark English and Spanish off the list.

A Few Words About “Mark Uterus”

Rep. Amy Stephens (R).

Rep. Amy Stephens (R).

The issue of reproductive choice has undeniably played a large role in the 2014 U.S. Senate race in Colorado. The heavy focus on abortion this year has a couple of origins: first and foremost, the successful prosecution of the issue in 2010 against stridently anti-abortion Republican candidate Ken Buck. Like Cory Gardner, Buck was a longtime supporter of the Personhood abortion ban, and this was used effectively against Buck to run up the score for Democrat Michael Bennet with women voters. In the end, Bennet's 17-point margin with women was the decisive factor in the 2010 Senate race, overcoming public polling that only once out of a dozen or more showed Bennet with a lead in the month of October.

The second reason abortion has loomed large in 2014 is that Republican Cory Gardner made it an issue by affirmatively disavowing the Colorado Personhood amendments just a few weeks after entering the Senate race. Gardner himself focused the race on his decision to disavow Personhood, and all the consequences that spun out of that decision: the contradiction with Gardner's continued support for equivalent federal legislation that would ban abortion and common forms of birth control, and dismay from anti-abortion activists on the right who openly disagree with Gardner's decision and stated reasons for it.

Focusing on Gardner's no-exceptions opposition to abortion has had the desired effect for Democrats of alienating Gardner from women voters, and Gardner's attempts to put the issue to bed early in the campaign failed dramatically as his federal Life at Conception Act became the story. In response, Gardner and Republican surrogates have decried Democrat Mark Udall as a "social issue warrior," and the standard response to this issue became feigned exasperation over the Udall campaign's "obsession" with the issue of abortion. At the Denver Post's U.S. Senate debate early this month, reporter Lynn Bartels invoked the now-famous nickname "Mark Uterus" in a question about his campaign's focus on the issue.

Of course, Bartels didn't come up with that nickname. According to a story published just before that debate, the credit for "Mark Uterus" goes to outgoing state Rep. Amy Stephens. Stephens exited the Senate race early this year to make way for Gardner. But what you might not know, because Bartels never mentioned it, is that Stephens is a former public policy specialist for the nationally known evangelical Christian organization Focus on the Family. Stephens also wrote Focus on the Family's abstinence-only sex ed curriculum, No Apologies.

Take a moment and let that sink in, folks. One of the foremost "social issue warriors" in Colorado is responsible for the meme now being used to paint Mark Udall…as a "social issue warrior." If "Mark Uterus" didn't currently have thousands of Google hits, and mentions from the Denver Post to the Washington Post, we'd be inclined to let this go. But like it or not, "Mark Uterus" has seen a great deal of play. And it has its origins with someone who, if the full facts were understood, most voters would laugh at for going there.

All we can say is, the extreme hypocrisy on display here says a lot about this race.

Rep. Kagan Helps Rescue ISIS-Bound Denver Girls

A sidenote to the riveting story this week about Denver teenage girls who were stopped in Germany on their way to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)–Democratic Rep. Daniel Kagan, who represents Cherry Hills Village in the Colorado House, played a role in the recovery of these teenagers before they made it to the Middle East. It's not a political story but it is an interesting segue into a subject we wouldn't normally discuss in this space. The Denver Post's Jesse Paul reported earlier this week, or you can watch the Post's video above:

"I'm very sure if my daughter crossed into Syria, I was never going to see her in my life," he said. "She would be gone."

It wasn't until he saw tweets and Facebook posts that he connected the dots and discovered she was heading to Syria, he said…

During the search for his teen daughter, the father sought help from state Rep. Daniel Kagan, D-Cherry Hills Village. Kagan, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, pushed the matter up the chain of command.

"He was worried sick," Kagan said Monday. Kagan said as he listened to the man's story, he became extremely concerned.

"This is a girl in a good family with good strong family roots," Kagan said.

If you haven't had the pleasure of getting to know Rep. Kagan, the son of Holocaust survivors who grew up in England before emigrating to the United States almost forty years ago, you ought to. He's one of the most interesting members of the legislature in either party, with stories you don't normally hear in the Colorado capitol building. He's not the type to make political hay out of helping recover these teenage girls, even with elections right around the corner. That too speaks to good character, and we think this deserves a favorable mention.

Friday Open Thread

Okay, me thinks this stinks trickery
Some weak links in the chain of the mystery
Time for that mist to leave
By way of the breeze, flows formed by my speak

–Del the Funky Homosapien

Did Democrats or Republicans Guess Wrong on Spanish-Language TV?

SEIU Colorado TV ad

Somebody guessed wrong on Spanish-language television buys in Colorado. Was it Democrats…or Republicans?

 

We haven't seen the hard numbers on this yet, but as it has been explained to us, 2014 has seen considerably more money spent on Spanish-language media buys than any other mid-term election (anecdotally, of course, it makes perfect sense). In fact, spending on Spanish-language media is at a level comparable to the 2012 Presidential election. That spending has not been equal among Democrats and Republicans, however, and on Tuesday evening we will have a pretty good idea of which Party made the wrong decision. Democrats have spent much more money on Spanish-language television than Republicans; media buys for Democratic Sen. Mark Udall alone have dominated the airwaves on Univision in Colorado.

Republican Senate candidate Cory Gardner launched his first Spanish-language TV ad in Colorado today, the same day in which the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) was promoting another new Spanish-language ad in a media campaign that has been underway for months (check out the SEIU press release from Oct. 7 after the jump). The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has run a Spanish-language TV ad with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush endorsing Gardner, but the Gardner campaign itself had not ventured into the medium until today. Coincidentally, NBC News reports on the attraction for politicos of Spanish-language media around the country:

That means in places like Colorado, there are many more Spanish-language ads than in previous elections, the sort of “wall-to-wall coverage” that non-Latino white voters have long been accustomed to seeing in elections, Chambers said. On top of that, Hispanic advocacy and other groups are doing field work, knocking on doors to register and turn out Latino voters and making sure those who can get their ballots mailed in…

…An ad titled “Tu Poder” running in Colorado – paid for by People for the American Way and NexGen Climate and done by Chambers – hits several themes at once to reach Latinos. It shows a mailbox to explain the new Colorado voting law in which every registered voter gets a mail-in ballot that has to be mailed back by Oct. 31 and it also touches on issues of the environment and health.

The ad for Colorado’s Democratic Sen. Mark Udall opens with several official ballot packets landing on a table and a narrator saying “Este es tu poder. (This is your power.)" That line is repeated later and followed by “úselo (use it.)”

The ad is part of a multiyear effort People for the American Way (PFAW) designed to reach Latino voters. Randy Borntrager, political director of the liberal group, said in 2014 Latinos “could be kingmaker” in several of the close 10 Senate races.

What's so fascinating about this disparity with Spanish-language media buys is that it offers a unique opportunity to examine different strategies in play. Just like any other big-money industry, politics is a copycat business. Everybody does TV and mail. Everybody does online advertising. Everybody has some sort of field campaign. But in this particular case, only one Party can be correct about their decision on how to allocate money for Spanish-language media (and TV specifically).

The relative importance of Spanish-language media to each Party is pretty clear in 2014, but by 2016 lessons will have been learned and cats copied.

If the Latino vote in Colorado does prove to be the final arbiter in many of these races, we can guess which side will be doing the copying in two years.

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Citizens United: The Ultimate Colorado Politics Faux Pas

We wrote earlier this week about the new "shockumentary" from national conservative filmmakers Citizens United on the "takeover" of Colorado by Democrats beginning in 2004, Rocky Mountain Heist. As we discussed, the film is mostly a hyped-up version of Adam Schrager's excellent book on the same subject, Blueprint: How the Democrats Won Colorado, with as much bombast as host Michelle Malkin could muster (which is apparently quite a lot). Mostly the film doesn't allege anything more than, well, really effective Democrats–and where it does, it's so inaccurate that it's more or less laughable.

Although Rocky Mountain Heist is now available online to watch for free online, we ordered a DVD copy almost two weeks ago. It finally arrived yesterday, and we were immediately struck by the cover photo:

rockymountainheist

The mountains in the background of the DVD cover for Citizens United's Rocky Mountain Heist are indeed in the Rocky Mountains. The problem is, this is a photo of the Canadian Rockies. The image you see is a very common stock photo of Moraine Lake, located in Banff National Park in Alberta. Here's another photo of this picturesque but foreign location:

winter_moraine_lake_alberta_canada-wallpaper-1152x720

In Colorado politics, one of the worst embarrassments possible is the use of mountains not located in our state in campaign ads and literature. Back in August, National Right To Life pulled down a social media graphic touting their endorsement of Cory Gardner after it was found to feature Wyoming's Mount Moran. Earlier this year, the Colorado GOP's independent expenditure committee used photos of Utah to extol "restoring Republican values to Colorado." Back in 2009, Scott McInnis used a photo from the same Banff National Park in Canada on his website, and in 2008 Bob Schaffer's family jumped out of a photo of Alaska's Denali instead of the intended Pikes Peak in a campaign TV spot. Most of these incidents were followed by lampooning local media coverage.

To some this may seem like small potatoes, but the truth is that proud Coloradans do not appreciate these kinds of mistakes–coming across as pandering by out-of-state interests to whom "all mountains look alike." Colorado has worked hard to overcome our flyover state reputation, and this is the exactly the sort of indifference that rips the scab off that longstanding resentment. It's also an inexcusably-lazy mistake to have made, particularly when so many others have already tripped over this.

Colorado Democrats in particular should find it pretty ironic.

Tea Party Express Endorses Mike Coffman (Shhh, Don’t Tell Anyone)

TeaParty-MikeCoffman

Tea Party Express, which bills itself as the largest Tea Party political action committee in the country, announced yesterday — yes, yesterday — that it is endorsing Republican Congressman Mike Coffman in CD-6. Check out the endorsement press release, however, and note how the language is so plain that it could apply to just about any interest group:

Tea Party Express’ Executive Director Taylor Budowich said, “Representative Mike Coffman is a solutions-driven leader. We need a problem solver like Mike to continue to get to the bottom of serious issues. We are confident he will keep the ball rolling to provide real answers for Americans.

It almost sounds like, We endorse Mike Coffman because we are endorsing Mike Coffman. We'd say that getting this endorsement is akin to the old "kissing your sister" line, but that wouldn't be fair to your sister.