Getting an ID for voting isn’t as easy as Wayne Williams implies

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

Back in January, Colorado's new Secretary of State, Wayne Williams, suggested that people who register and vote on Election Day should present a "Department-of-Revenue-issued ID."

Williams made it sound like this would be a snap for voters: "And it’s important to note that in Colorado, ID’s are free, to anyone who’s indigent. Anyone who’s poor, anyone who’s elderly can get a free ID," Williams told Colorado Public Radio's Ryan Warner Jan. 11.

Technically, that's true. But in reality, especially if you're old or indigent, getting an ID is often neither easy nor free. With the Colorado state legislature debating a bill today requiring IDs for Election-Day registration, now is a good time for Warner to air some of the facts that run counter to Williams' simple view.

The core problem is that, while an ID itself is free, through the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), the underlying documentation required to get an ID can be expensive to obtain and time-consuming to assemble.

From reading Colorado's law mandating free IDs for those over 64-years and the indigent, you might think all you have to do is trot over to your county human services department, pick up the required forms, and then get hooked up with your free ID from DMV.

Not really. At Denver Human Services, you can get a coupon for a free ID if you declare that you are homeless, and therefore entitled to a $10.50 fee waver. But if you don't have citizenship documents, you have to go to a nonprofit "partner" organization for help, according to Julie Smith, Communications Director at Denver Human Services.

"We recognize that this is a challenge to navigate, especially if you have to obtain a birth certificate," said Smith, adding that transportation alone is a "big challenge" for people who are homeless.

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Colorado Republican “Brain Child” Architect Pleads Guilty

UPDATE: A local grassroots conservative blog adds some interesting–alleged, we must note–details on the relationship between Colorado GOP chairman Ryan Call and Tyler Harber of Harden Global, who pled guilty this week to federal coordination and false statement charges:

Colorado GOP Chairman Ryan Call’s handpicked board member for the Colorado Republican Party Independent Expenditure Committee (IEC) has plead guilty in a federal prosecution case to illegally coordinating a Super PAC he created with the campaign of Congressional candidate Chris Perkins, for whom he served as a campaign manager…

This admission of guilt seriously calls into question Ryan Call’s creation of the Colorado Republican IEC, which he has always denied coordinates with individual candidates and campaigns. Like the Super PACs on a federal level, independent expenditure committees under Colorado law are exempt from Colorado’s campaign finance restrictions so long as they do not coordinate their activities with specific candidates. At this time, there has already been one campaign finance complaint filed against the Republican IEC by campaign finance watchdog organization, Campaign Integrity Watchdog. That matter is still pending.

The board of directors of the Colorado Republican IEC, including Harber, was appointed by Colorado GOP Chairman Ryan Call. Harber also served as the registered agent for the Colorado Republican IEC. The Colorado Republican IEC has paid tens of thousands of dollars to Harden Global, Harber’s Washington D.C. based consulting company since its inception in 2013. Yes—Harber served on the board of directors that authorized to spend tens of thousands of dollars to his own company. Apparently Chairman Call saw nothing wrong with that.

So where and how did Harden Global spend the tens of thousands of dollars that the Republican IEC paid it? No one knows, but one could reasonably assume much of it went back into the pockets of Tyler Harber…

Could things be about to get messier than expected for Call, just as the endorsements are starting to lock down? Stay tuned.

—–

Colorado GOP chairman Ryan Call.

Colorado GOP chairman Ryan Call.

A press release from the Department of Justice yesterday announces a guilty plea entered by one Tyler Eugene Harber, a D.C.-based Republican political consultant:

A campaign finance manager and political consultant pleaded guilty today in the Eastern District of Virginia for coordinating $325,000 in federal election campaign contributions by a political action committee (PAC) to a Congressional campaign committee.  This is the first criminal prosecution in the United States based upon the coordination of campaign contributions between political committees…

“Campaign finance laws exist to guard against illegal activity such as coordinated campaign contributions,” U.S. Attorney Boente said.  “The citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia can rely this office enforce federal campaign finance law.”

 “Today, Mr. Harber took responsibility for violating federal election campaign laws by illegally coordinating payments between a super pac and a candidate’s campaign committee,” said Assistant Director in Charge McCabe.  “The FBI will continue to investigate allegations of campaign finance abuse which are in place to ensure openness and fairness in our elections so the people’s interests are protected.”

Tyler Eugene Harber, 34, of Alexandria, Virginia, pleaded guilty to one count of coordinated federal election contributions and one count of making false statements to the FBI before U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady of the Eastern District of Virginia.  A sentencing hearing is scheduled for June 5, 2015.

Tyler Eugene Harber is/was (we're not sure what the status is today) a partner in the political consulting firm Harden Global, whose website has suddenly gone down for maintenance in the wake of Harber's guilty plea. Locals will remember that Harden Global is the contractor who developed the website for the Colorado Republican Party Independent Expenditure Committee last summer. Originally billed as a "well-financed, multiyear effort by Republicans in Colorado," the IE committee's centerpiece "research site" fell into obscurity after being lampooned for using stock photos from Utah and Arizona–a lethal faux pas in Colorado politics.

While we haven't heard allegations of impropriety related to the Colorado Republican IR committee's activities last year, as Tom Tancredo can tell you, Colorado is no stranger to Byzantine political dealings involving shady Washington GOP-allied political types. Also, we do note that the website Harden Global built for the Colorado GOP was originally represented as chairman Ryan Call's "brain child."

So, you know, hopefully Call gets the password from Mr. Harber before sentencing.

Nobody Does Nothing Quite Like Senate Republicans

The Captain does not approve

Republicans hold a one-seat majority in the State Senate, and they are off to a fast start in promoting their policy agenda. We dare say: nobody does nothing quite like Senate Republicans.

While destroying limiting government is a pretty common refrain to hear from right-wing Republicans such as Senate President Bill Cadman, Assistant Majority Leader Kevin Lundberg, and Majority Caucus Chair/culinary expert Vicki Marble, we'd venture a guess that even they've been a little surprised at just how easy it can be to make government do nothing. Hell, they're making nothing happen without even doing anything!

Consider what Senate Republicans didn't accomplish today: they allowed two important bipartisan commissions to expire on their own by not voting to renew them. Republicans didn't have to create any new legislation or come up with any ideas of their own — all they had to do was not let the commissions expire.

Equal Pay for Equal Work: Senate Republicans ended the Pay Equity Commission by doing nothing to allow it to continue. The Commission was created to study the existing pay gap between men, women, and minorities, and to come up with solutions for closing the gap. According to information provided by Senate Democrats, "Colorado women are still only paid 80 cents for every dollar earned by men, and the gap is wider for women of color. African American women earn only 67.5 cents and Latinas just 52.5 cents for every dollar earned by the highest earners."

Promoting Fair and Modern Elections: Say goodbye to the Colorado Voter Access and Modernized Elections Commission (COVAME) , which will cease operations on July 1, 2015. Today Republicans on the Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee allowed the clock to run out on re-authorization of the committee. Nevermind the constant refrain from Republicans about how concerned they are when it comes to voter fraud — the magical Private Industry Fairy will save them. A press release from the Senate Democrats explains more about COVAME:

The General Assembly established the COVAME in 2013, as part of the Colorado Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act (HB 13-1303).  This measure sought to make elections simpler and more accessible for all eligible voters, and some of its provisions called for changes in how elections are physically conducted.  Notably, it called for mail ballots to go out to all voters in general elections, Voter Service and Polling Centers to replace traditional precinct polling places, and for allowing voter registration up until Election Day.

The final COVAME report is not due until mid-February of 2015, and it will provide analysis from the 2014 election and offer recommendations for 2016. 

We've said before that Colorado Republicans appear to have misinterpreted a one-seat majority as giving them a mandate to do whatever they choose. This would appear to be yet another example of that fallacy; we're pretty confident that Colorado voters weren't looking for the GOP to sit on their hands once they took office.

New SoS Williams’ Agenda: Bold Solutions In Search of Problems

Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

Nothing you shouldn't have expected from Colorado's freshly sworn-in Secretary of State Wayne Williams, but national liberal blog Think Progress reports on Williams' priority as Secretary of State: whatever voter ID law he can get.

Wayne Williams (R) was sworn in this week as Colorado’s Secretary of State, and has already begun pushing for laws to make voters show photo identification before they can cast a ballot. “I think most Coloradans are honest and law-abiding and follow the rules, but I think it’s important to have the processes in place to protect the election system so that people have confidence in it,” Williams told Colorado Public Radio in an interview over the weekend.

He added that because Democrats still control the governor’s mansion and state house, passage of such a law is unlikely, but offered that he’d be willing to settle for rules requiring a photo ID for Coloradans taking advantage of the state’s same-day voter registration. “This is someone we’ve never seen before. We don’t have any proof they are who they claim to be,” he said.

Studies show such a law targeting same-day registration would disproportionately impact voters who are younger, lower income, non-white, and newly naturalized.

There have been no reports to suggest any problem with the execution of Colorado's modernized election laws in 2014, including the administration of same-day registration. Even Williams' predecessor Scott Gessler, one of the most vocal critics of the 2013 legislation that revamped Colorado's election system, grudgingly admits that the system overall worked pretty well. With that in mind, nothing about same-day registration overcomes the well-documented problems with requiring a photo ID to carry out the constitutional right to vote. In the absence of any actual problem, there's simply no reason to impose this burden–except to make it harder to vote.

But as Think Progress continues, Williams is all about making it harder to vote, even where that means breaking campaign pledges:

Williams’ campaign centered on his reputation as a “champion of access and transparency in government” and his promise to “ensure voter access to the polls” — though he did express support for voter ID laws during his run for office. He also often touted his record of making voting more convenient as a county clerk: “We have worked with all parties and groups to ensure that our polling locations are located in easy to reach locations and we’ve exceeded legal requirements by opening more locations and opening them for longer hours. As a result of these efforts, more citizens have voted than ever before in my county.”

After winning the race, he flipped on this point as well, telling Colorado Public Radio that too many polling locations were open for too many hours in this past election. “That’s not really a very cost-effective way and there certainly wasn’t a demand for it,” he said, adding that he hopes to give counties “flexibility at the local level” to decide when and where polling locations should be available.

During the 2013 recall elections, Williams came under fire for severely limiting voting locations and hours in Senate District 11. After mail ballots for the recalls were disallowed in court on a technicality, having convenient locations and hours for voters to cast ballots became far more important. Despite this, Williams' polling centers in El Paso County opened days after their counterparts in Pueblo–and in Manitou Springs, a stronghold for recalled Sen. John Morse, a vote center didn't open until the Monday before the election.

In that case, anyway, the "flexibility" Williams wanted was flexibility to game the system.

Bottom line: Williams gets a little space as a new Secretary of State to get his agenda together, but we can't forget that this is the same Wayne Williams who made a nationwide joke of himself last October–reaching for excuses to question mail ballots that were simply laughable. Suffice to say, whatever Williams ends up proposing had better be backed up with hard evidence or it will go nowhere. After Williams' embarrassing failure to gin up scandal on FOX News–not to mention four years his predecessor spent making wild allegations about vote fraud in Colorado that were totally unfounded–he starts with basically zero credibility.

And we have a strong suspicion that is where he will remain.

Records Request Reveals Investigation of Pueblo GOP Chair For Election Document Theft

(Nothing up her sleeve! Not sneaky enough - Promoted by Colorado Pols)

WEDNESDAY POLS UPDATE: The Denver Post's editorial board weighs in:

Chostner's letter says the "evidence would support filing a misdemeanor election offense," but he declined to do so. Why? Undermining election security is a serious matter, and DAs need to impress that upon everyone.

—–

POLS UPDATE: The Pueblo Chieftain's Peter Roper reports:

Becky Mizel, chairman of the Pueblo County Republican Party, received a stern letter from District Attorney Jeff Chostner last month that said video evidence showed she took confidential election records from a Nov. 18 county election canvass board meeting — a misdemeanor charge that Chostner said would not be filed against her because Mizel argued it was inadvertent.

Chostner's letter, dated Dec. 10, acknowledged that Mizel insisted the episode was an accident, but the letter clearly challenged that, citing video records of the meeting…

Chostner's letter said Ortiz provided the canvass board with a "direct recording election" report and an abstract report of results to review. Ortiz advised those at the meeting that those reports could not leave the room.

Chostner's letter said video showed Mizel later putting the documents in her satchel, attempting to leave by a different door than the rest of the people at the meeting, only to find that door locked.

—–

ProgressNow Colorado, the state's largest online progressive advocacy organization, today called on Pueblo Republican Party Chair Becky Mizel to publicly apologize and explain her apparent theft of a confidential election document. ProgressNow Colorado obtained video and documents in an Open Records Act request regarding elections procedures and meetings in Pueblo County.

According to video [1] and documents obtained from the Pueblo District Attorney and Clerk & Recorders offices, available from ProgressNow Colorado upon request, Mizel only narrowly avoided criminal charges related to the disappearance of a document from an election certification meeting on November 18, 2014. The document contained confidential information from ballots cast in person on voting machines.

"The kind of shenanigans we're learning about in Pueblo are shameful and unacceptable," said ProgressNow Colorado executive director Amy Runyon-Harms. "As an elected official representing the Republican Party, Mizel should be held to a higher standard. At the very least, Mizel is guilty of juvenile nonsense unworthy of any legitimate stakeholder in our elections. At worst? The Pueblo GOP is not above cheating to achieve their goals."

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Latest Right Wing Fantasy: NAACP Bombing a “Hoax”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Charles C. Johnson wants attention. He wants digital pageviews on his website**' so that he can keep promoting himself as some kind of conservative wonderboy crusader for the truth. He isn't trusted among credible journalists along the political spectrum. He tends to regard morals, ethics and truth to be insignificant obstacles when pursuing a breaking news story. And if the truth isn't flashy enough, Johnson will fix it up until it is sexy enough to bring readers to his site.

Charles Johnson, of gotnews.com, interviewed on Redstate 12/21/14 Johnson's latest attempt to fire up the right wing blogosphere is his claim that the Tuesday, January 6, 2015 attempted firebombing of the NAACP headquarters in Colorado Springs was a hoax. His story has been shared throughout the right wing blogosphere – Twitchy, Drudge, Newsmax, and dozens more are gleefully proclaiming that the NAACP faked the bombing.

Johnson, a blogger based in Fresno, California, (pictured on Redstate, above), used the Google Earth program to find an existing dark splotch on the NAACP HQ which existed before the attempted bombing. See Google Earth screen cap, right.

However, video from  the Democracy Now story clearly shows two marks, one angling upward, one downward. The Blogger littlegreenfootballs has a nice summation of the Google Earth "evidence". Mark Reiss' photo from the Gazette, reprinted in Jesse Paul's Denver Post story, also clearly shows both marks next to each other. (below)

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Gessler’s Anti-Mail Ballot Talking Points Grow Awfully Thin

Scott Gessler.

Scott Gessler.

Reid Wilson writes at the Washington Post today about the differing experiences of states that have switched to mail ballots. Two states, Washington state and Colorado, both have Republican Secretaries of State. In Washington, Secretary of State Kim Wyman says the switch to mail balloting has been highly successful. After the state allowed mail ballots in the 1990s, it emerged as by far the most popular–and cost effective–option.

But here in Colorado, outgoing Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler is duty bound to disparage mail ballots as he has since the legislation broadening their use passed in 2013–and no positive experience can shake him.

To Gessler, whose state only began conducting elections entirely by mail this year, the system creates the potential for what he calls a “single point of failure” — the U.S. Postal Service.

“The Postal Service is cutting back service for cost-cutting measures,” Gessler said. “You’re seeing some disenfranchisement of voters where the post office is just so slow.”

“I think more people are disenfranchised through all-mail ballots because of the post office than anything else in the country,” he said.

Richard Coolidge, a spokesman for Gessler’s office, said the secretary of state worked overtime to collect mail from the central processing facility in Denver to meet the Election Day deadline. They found 366 ballots that would have otherwise been thrown out for arriving too late.

We have no doubt that some number of voters disregarded the deadline to mail in ballots that was clearly indicated on every ballot as well as other election-related correspondence. Even factoring that inevitable issue, it's just silly to claim that the Postal Service is a "single point of failure" in Colorado elections. For one thing, a large percentage of "mail ballots" aren't mailed back to clerks at all, but dropped off at ballot collection boxes. Counties are apparently not required to track the percentage of ballots returned by postal mail as opposed to being dropped off directly but we've heard in Denver the percentage may be 70% or more deposited in drop boxes. Beyond that, there are other options available, like early voting and vote centers, that make this "single point of failure" business just plain silly.

But the best evidence that Gessler is off base with his ongoing complaints about mail ballots are the results of this year's elections. Neither mail balloting, nor other new election provisions Gessler complains about like same-day voter registration, prevented Republicans from having a pretty good election in Colorado in 2014. There is no evidence that Colorado's updated election laws resulted in anything other than better turnout in a midterm election that nationwide saw the worst turnout since the 1940s. Republicans won the U.S. Senate race, dominated the downticket statewide races except Bob Beauprez's gubernatorial defeat, and made Democrats work for legislative races all over the state. What about this experience speaks badly of Colorado's new election laws, which happen to have been passed by Democrats?

Democrats are bruised from this year's election results, but one thing we can all say for sure today is that Gessler's wild predictions of fraud and chaos as a result of House Bill 13-1303 were totally unfounded. Next year, when new Secretary of State Wayne Williams tries to claim otherwise, hopefully someone reminds him that he won his election in 2014 comfortably too.

Westboro Baptist Church to Picket Pueblo Courthouse

(Why don't they just go to hell? – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

SUNDAY POLS UPDATE: Pueblo Chieftain:

The release uses a number of derogatory terms toward the gay community and specifically mentions Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz saying he, “Couldn’t move fast enough to start marrying fags,” and use that as an impetus for their planned protest.

The release also states, “Same-sex marriage dooms nations,” and that Pueblo County “foams at the mouth” to marry gay people, among other things.

The Westboro Baptist Church group routinely travels across the country picketing against gay marriage and other highly contentious things such as military funerals, and are often met with much opposition wherever they go.

Upon hearing the news, citizens of Pueblo mobilized on Facebook and began making plans for a counter-protest for that day.

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Westboro Baptist Church, well-known for picketing the funerals of soldiers to protest "gay-friendly" military policies, is now scheduling a picket December 29 at the Pueblo Courthouse to protest the hundreds of gay and lesbian couples married by County Clerk and Recorder Gilbert "Bo" Ortiz.

The founder of WBC , Fred Phelps, passed away last spring , and his family members have been leaving the church.  Nevertheless, there are apparently a core of true believers willing to travel to Pueblo to keep their church's name, and their homophobic cause, in the news. 

The language of this flyer is of someone clearly both fascinated and repelled by gay sex. "Crack in the dyke", "forcing this….sin down the throat", "angel-gagging drivel", etc. 

I predict a hostile reception for WBC, and that the number of counter-protesters at the Pueblo Courthouse will far outnumber the WBC haters. Pueblo, is, by and large, a tolerant, live-and-let-live town, which elected an openly lesbian House Representative, Daneya Esgar,  this year. Colorado legislators passed a bill allowing civil unions in 2013, and it took effect last May. 

Puebloans are also unlikely to allow an organization which pickets the funerals of soldiers to publicize itself in the Home of Heroes.Further, the WBC picket attempt is likely to alienate Republican moderate and independent voters, who have only reluctantly been dragged along on the Pueblo GOP quest to smear Clerk Ortiz, accusing him of voter fraud and discrimination, in actions and lawsuits. The WBC picket will, I predict, be a gigantic, oozing black eye for the Pueblo GOP. 

So y'all come on down to Pueblo for a wintry picnic on the Courthouse Grounds. WBC will provide the fire and brimstone- maybe. 

Republican Recount Agitation Fizzles

Marilyn Marks.

Marilyn Marks.

The Pueblo Chieftain reports today on a swift abort to talk of a paid recount of two (not really) close races there:

The local GOP had by the end of the day on Monday to deposit $17,000 into an escrow account to pay for the recount, a figure quoted to the GOP by County Clerk and Recorder Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz and disputed by the party.

Becky Mizel, chairwoman of the local GOP, said her members came close to raising the money and lamented that part of Ortiz’s quote included an outside consultant to be on hand to answer any questions about the tabulating machinery when the GOP asked for that during the actual election.

“Ethically, I can’t justify spending the hard-earned money of my membership on this,” Mizel said. [Pols emphasis]

This comes after a lengthy period of nit-picking by Pueblo Republicans and eccentric former Aspen mayoral candidate Marilyn Marks, who insisted without evidence–even as they appear to have not hurt Republicans a bit–that mail ballots were wreaking havoc with Colorado elections.

Likewise, the Denver Post's John Aguilar reported this morning about a push to recount Adams County races we first broke word of last Friday:

Gary Mikes, chairman of the Adams County Republican Party, said Monday he suspects that invalid ballots were turned in by voters during the Nov. 4 election in the race for House District 31, in which Democrat Joseph Salazar ended up with a 221-vote lead over Republican challenger Carol Beckler. The same goes for the Adams County commissioner race, in which Steve O'Dorisio, a Democrat, bested GOP candidate Joseph Domenico by 597 votes, Mikes said.

In an email to Adams County elections officials earlier today, Adams County GOP chairman Gary Mikes withdrew that request with an apology "for any inconvenience." As for Pueblo, the margins in the two races in question, one House race and the county clerk race, were significantly larger than the extremely narrow races in Adams County–which themselves still fell outside the allowable range for a recount paid for with state funds.

What we've heard, as with Pueblo, is that the "concerns" in Adams County boiled down to baseless James O'Keefe speculation about vote fraud, none of which has been substantiated anywhere, and as we've discussed at length would have been impossible to pull off due to the safeguards clearly outlined in last year's election modernization law. Overall Republicans did very well in this year's elections, to include surprisingly strong performance in traditionally Democratic Adams County. If anything, we can imagine why Republicans wouldn't want to start looking under rocks up there, lest they endanger some of their own close wins.

Bottom line: the real problem may be that reality in our elections this year completely failed to live up to conspiracy theorists' hype, and they've just been a little slow to catch on to this fact. But when it comes time to put your money where there mouth is, reality has a way of snapping back into focus.

Gessler Blames County Clerks for Election Day Problems

Scott Gessler.

Secretary of State Scott Gessler: Blaming everyone else since 2011!

You may recall from Election Day that there were several complaints of problems with the Secretary of State's computer system as county clerks tried to update ballot results. As Charles Ashby of the Grand Junction Sentinel reports, Secretary of State Scott Gessler blames the county clerks for problems with his own office:

Colorado’s county clerks and the Colorado Office of Information Technology aren’t agreeing with Secretary of State Scott Gessler about what happened on Election Day.

Gessler told state lawmakers last week that it wasn’t his office’s fault that the county clerks’ offices had problems accessing the Colorado Statewide Registration and Election system.

Instead, the Republican blamed the Office of Information Technology and the clerks’ election workers, saying there was nothing wrong with his system, known as SCORE.

“In anticipation of an afternoon flood (of usage), we brought the system down at 2 o’clock (on Election Day) and brought it up at 2:05 and 30 seconds, so it was down for about five and a half minutes,” Gessler told the Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee on Tuesday. “We thought the system worked very well.”

But the Colorado County Clerks Association and the Office of Information Technology, or OIT, said that’s not entirely what happened.

Mesa County Clerk Sheila Reiner, who is the 2014 president of the association, said the system went down early in the day Nov. 4 because of an initial problem at OIT, but continued to have problems until the polls closed at 7 p.m.

It's hard to say that this is just a simple "he said/she said" argument. Gessler appears unwilling to acknowledge that the SOS computer system had any problems, instead blaming county clerks for clogging up the system. How dare those county clerks actually try to use election software on Election Day.

Gessler's argument is pretty thin in general; there are numerous accounts of computer problems happening across the state throughout the day. We'd guess the Office of Information Technology knows a little more about this than Gessler himself.

Recount Requested by Republicans in Adams County?

According to rumors emanating from Adams County, the Republican Party has requested a recount of the vote in all of Adams County.

Per Colorado's Revised Statutes, today is the last day that an "interested party" can request a recount of the General Election results (at their own expense, of course). We are trying to confirm these rumors, but if true, this could open up one hell of a can of worms related to candidates up and down the ballot.

Turnout in Adams County was incredibly low in 2014. For example, Democratic Rep. Joseph Salazar was re-elected to his post in HD-31 with 11,501 votes (compared to 11,280 votes for Republican Carol Beckler). It's no surprise that turnout in 2014 would be lower than in a Presidential year, but the drop-off here was particularly head-scratching. Check out the vote totals from the last three election cycles in HD-31:

TOTAL VOTES IN HD-31
2010: 30,462
2012: 31,101
2014: 22,781

Again, voter turnout could reasonably be expected to be low in 2014 compared to prior years…but a drop of nearly 30% is a different story. Also interesting to note: Former Adams County District Attorney Don Quick lost his bid for Attorney General to Republican Cynthia Coffman by a margin of 44.83% to 48.11%. There are other explanations for how Quick could have failed to carry his own county despite having won two terms as Adams County DA, but it is a question mark nevertheless.

We'll update this post as more information becomes available.

Who’s Afraid of All-Mail Ballots? Not The GOP Anymore!

Eli Stokols of FOX 31 writes for Politico Magazine about one very unexpected development of this week's election in Colorado: how the GOP appears to have utilized the state's new all-mail ballot system, a reform they staunchly opposed in the legislature last year, to considerable success:

What has been viewed as a partisan attempt by Democrats to further capitalize on the state’s shifting demographics, making it easier for low-propensity voters to cast ballots, appears to have backfired. An early read of Colorado’s returns shows a much older electorate than anyone had predicted: roughly 60 percent of Colorado voters were over the age of 50. Thus, it appears that many who took advantage of the mail-in option were older voters who tended Republican. Turnout, despite the best efforts of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s vaunted Bannock Street Project and other turnout efforts by other progressive groups, was barely above 2010 levels. Gardner won easily and Beauprez took Hickenlooper, who finally claimed victory Wednesday morning, to extra innings because Democrats were surprisingly hoisted on their own petard of election reform.

While so many people are concerned about Republican efforts to roll back voter rights in other states with controversial voter ID laws, limits on absentee balloting and other measures, Democrats—by expanding voting rights in Colorado—paid the price in a state they might otherwise have won.

In the final days of the campaign, Udall’s team saw a narrow path to a late Election Night victory if they could get the overall Republican voter registration advantage below 6 percent and win big with unaffiliated voters. In the end, they did narrow the GOP edge to 5.4 percent, less than the 6 percent margin Sen. Michael Bennet overcame in 2010. But they fell well short of Bennet’s double-digit margins with unaffiliated voters. That’s little surprise given Gardner’s strength as a candidate—he simply never seemed as scary to women or Hispanic voters as Udall’s campaign said he was—and the fundamentals of the 2014 cycle.

In the Denver Post's related story today, DU professor Seth Masket is less certain mail ballots boosted the GOP, but it's pretty evident they did not help Democrats close the gap in a midterm election already stacked against them:

"It's hard to say what the overall lesson for turnout is" from the universal mail-ballot law, said Seth Masket, chairman of the University of Denver's Department of Political Science. "But what happened in Colorado doesn't look too different from what happened in an awful lot of other states, in that you saw some Republicans who outperformed the polling, and Democrats took losses (nearly) across the board."

Masket long had been skeptical that the 2013 law passed by Colorado Democrats — requiring the sending of a ballot to every registered voter with a verifiable address — would boost Democrats' prospects in a non-presidential election.

The legislation that resulted in mail ballots being sent to every registered voters in Colorado this year, House Bill 13-1303, was hotly opposed by Republicans in the legislature in Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler. Right-leaning "vote watchdogs" like eccentric Aspen millionaire Marilyn Marks warned that mail ballots would allow Democrats to swamp the election with fraud. Now Secretary of State-elect Wayne Williams…well, he didn't actually help scare people about this law much, it's true, though he did try. The law attracted conservative attention again after "gotcha" artist James O'Keefe led a couple of low-level GOTV staffers into endorsing his theory about how mail ballot fraud might work (even though what he proposed would never work).

Regardless, with the election now over and the GOP riding high, Republicans are singing a very different tune about Colorado's mail ballots:

"With mail ballots, the presumption has been it's better for Democrats and liberal interest groups," said Josh Penry, a Republican consultant to the Coffman campaign. "That doesn't have to be the case. The advantage goes to who's best-funded and -organized."

In hindsight, the results make it pretty clear that that the hysteria over House Bill 13-1303 was as unfounded as the Republican county clerks who helped write it always said. And if you're not convinced that Republicans were not fully embracing House Bill 1303 by Election Day, here's Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute–one of the most controversial opponents of the new election laws–endorsing same-day voter registration:

Bottom line: Colorado's experiment with modernized, easily accessible voting in 2014 strongly argues against the kinds of voting restrictions traditionally favored by Republicans. Where in many states Republican-controlled legislatures have clamped down on voting methods, accessibility, and documentation, Colorado took the 180-degree opposition approach of making it as easy to vote as possible while preserving basic safeguards.

And apparently, that didn't hurt the GOP at all. While that one-time result may disappoint some partisan Democrats, we are obliged to consider it a positive development for small-d democracy.

Voter Turnout Update

ELECTION DAY UPDATE: Voter turnout as of 4:00 pm is 1,799,675. Colorado should blow right past 2010 turnout.

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Here are the most recent voter turnout numbers for the largest counties in Colorado. Remember, these numbers were provided by the Colorado Secretary of State this morning, and do not take into account anything that has already happened today:

TOTAL STATEWIDE VOTES
2010: 1,821,028
2012: 2,596,173
2014: 1,607,220 (NOT including Election Day)

Voter turnout prior to Election Day

 

Answer My Voting Questions!!!

Need to know where to drop your ballot? Wanna check your registration? Need some "A's" for your "FAQs?"

Click below to learn more, and remember this: It's too late to mail your ballot. You must return ballots to a polling place to designated drop-off area.

JVC