Because Elections Matter – Why We Should Care about “ChairGate”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Former Colorado GOP chair Ryan Call, AG Cynthia Coffman.

Former Colorado GOP chair Ryan Call, AG Cynthia Coffman.

In the Politichicks article “Sex, Lies, and the GOP“, Kathryn Porter has given readers an explanation for why Marilyn Marks and Becky Mizel were motivated to force House to resign. I can’t speak for the motivations of others who may or may not have been involved, but I contend that Marks and Mizel needed for Steve House to step down as Chair of the Colorado GOP, in order to keep their positions of influence within the GOP, and within Colorado’s conservative base.

Quoting from Porter’s article:

One of those [Steve House’s] critics is elections integrity expert, Marilyn Marks who shared her experience as a member of a state party elections oversight committee. She said that some members walked off due to the inexplicable decision to replace the committee vice-chair and the invitation to include county clerks—holding different agendas—whom the committee was seeking to hold accountable.

Steve House, as Chair, chose to open up the party’s Elections Oversight Committee, of which both Marks and Mizel were members. He was seeking to have a less antagonistic, less litigious relationship with the County Election Clerks.  However, antagonism and lawsuits against the Clerks, complaints to the Secretary of State,  are how Marks and Mizel roll. This is their schtick, their raison d’etre. In the narrative Marks has carefully built up for the last few years, no public election official of any party can be trusted. The election system is full of gaping holes and opportunities for fraud, and only she, the “election watchdog“, can protect vulnerable votes.

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There’s A Little “Honey Badger” In Wayne Williams After All

Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

The Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby reports on new election rules proposed by Secretary of State Wayne Williams.During the tenure of Williams’ predecessor, Scott “Honey Badger” Gessler, new rulemaking on elections was a reliably fraught exercise–Gessler made little pretense about proposing rules that would benefit his fellow Republicans, and nothing short of a court order was ever able to slow him down.

Ashby reports on one particular Williams proposed rule that has a distinctly “Honey Badger” ring to it:

The proposed rule calls for county clerks to include a new line on the envelopes voters use to return their mail ballots, one that would ask for the name and address of any person collecting them to be turned in.

Normal get-out-the-vote efforts for candidates routinely contact voters who haven’t yet turned in their ballots, asking them to do so. In some cases, those campaign volunteers will offer to take them in if a voter is physically incapable of doing so.

Some critics of that practice say it opens the door to potential election fraud, saying such volunteers could turn in only those ballots that help their candidate…

By way of explanation. Scott Gessler did adopt a similar rule last year to this proposal. The rule was stripped from the enabling legislation in the General Assembly because there were major legal questions as to whether this was something the SOS could enforce, so the rule never went into effect. And like so many hand-wringing hypothetical ways Republicans imagine elections could be compromised, there’s no evidence this has ever, you know, happened:

During last year’s U.S. Senate race, there were allegations that some people were doing that, but no evidence ever surfaced that it was actually happening, said Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert.

Regardless, Staiert said it makes sense to have some sort of mechanism in place to guard against it, just in case. [Pols emphasis]

Republican Mesa County Clerk Sheila Reiner, a frequent impediment to Gessler’s various election “reform” proposals with her pesky reality-based viewpoint, calls this a ridiculous waste of time:

Reiner said the proposed rule could place unnecessary costs on county clerks, all for something that isn’t happening anyway.

“It could cause some confusion for sure,” she said. “I don’t know what the implications for costs are, but there will be some additional ink on the envelopes. And without a statute to back this up, to tell us we have actual authority to void a ballot on that criteria, we’re not going to look at it.”

With no evidence of an actual problem to be addressed, and no statutory authority to act upon whatever this proposal might reveal, the purpose of this seems clear: shenanigans. It would give “vote fraud watchdogs”–a euphemism for poll challengers and other election intimidation specialists–another tool to baselessly call election results into question.

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Koch –funded “Nonprofit” Stomps Down Hard on Health Care Initiative

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

You’ve probably never heard of Initiative 20….unless you listen to right wing talk radio, or hang out on right wing websites. Then, you might believe that Initiative 20 is a Communist plot to ration your health care, run all private insurors out of Colorado, take away your Medicaid, and generally make your life miserable.

Colorado Care? Yes!

Initiative 20, the ColoradoCareYes plan, is the beginning of the end of the Federal Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) in Colorado, and Koch-funded attack groups are trying to stop it before it begins.

Republicans, after having tried to repeal the ACA 54 times, (but still having no plan to replace it) should be rejoicing that a coalition of groups in Colorado, inspired by Senator Irene Aguilar, M.D, is promoting an alternative to the ACA.  I mean really…the end of mandates? The end of Obama’s name on your health care plan? No price discrimination against rural consumers? No deductibles? It’s a Tea Party dream!

In the original ACA legislation is an “innovation” provision, article 1332, which allows states to opt out of the ACA, if they can prove that their own programs have as good or better outcomes for consumers. The ColoradoCare plan as written would be simpler, more fair, and less expensive than the ACA.

Instead of rejoicing that Democrats are accomplishing their goal of replacing the ACA, however, Republican operatives and organizations quickly stomped on the rollout of Initiative 20 with a Koch-brothers funded website, and talk radio diatribes about how the ColoradoCareYES Initiative must be stopped.

Some background information: (more…)

2016 Won’t Be Like 2014 (Or 2010)

Sen. Michael Bennet, President Barack Obama.

Sen. Michael Bennet, President Barack Obama.

Famed political analyst Stuart Rothenberg has a smart writeup at Roll Call today on the state of play in Colorado ahead of the 2016 U.S. Senate race–with some perspective that’s quite valuable if you’re using past performance as a predictor of future results:

Republican strategists have not given up hope of recruiting a top-tier challenger, such as Rep. Mike Coffman, who might be able to mount the sort of come-from-behind effort then-Rep. Cory Gardner did to upset Democratic Sen. Mark Udall last cycle.

But even knowledgeable Republicans wouldn’t tell you the Colorado Senate race is close to a tossup now. And in their most candid moments they might even tell you the race may never get any closer than where it is now — leaning in Bennet’s favor…

Colorado voters who wanted to send a message of dissatisfaction about the president could only do so by voting against Bennet, and subsequently Udall. That is a different dynamic from the one that occurs in presidential election years, such as 2016.

Next fall, voters won’t automatically see the Senate race as a way to make a statement about the presidential race, and the GOP won’t have a strong voter turnout advantage, the way the party did in 2010 and 2014.

The last U.S. Senate race in a presidential election year in Colorado was 2008–the year when Mark Udall blew out Republican Bob Schaffer, in a race where Schaffer was hobbled by ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and generalized dissatisfaction with the Republican brand after eight years of George W. Bush in the White House. In 2010 and 2014, election years where Democrats in Colorado fought uphill battles, presidential-year turnout ebbed, and conservative voters in this state surged to the polls. Even at the height of the 2010 GOP wave, Bennet managed to come out ahead of the decidedly out-of-the-mainstream GOP nominee Ken Buck. In 2014, Cory Gardner’s audacious con job airtight message discipline powered him past Udall’s uninspiring single-issue negative campaign.

In 2016, there is no Cory Gardner Colorado Republicans can turn to for a fresh start, and Bennet will not face the same kind of “Teflon” opponent Udall did. As Rothenberg correctly notes, presumed 2016 U.S. Senate frontrunner Mike Coffman has his own long record of immoderation, like in 2012 when he told attendees at a GOP fundraiser that President Barack Obama “is just not an American.” While Coffman has managed to keep his job since that major on-camera gaffe three years ago, Rothenberg is absolutely right that “Democrats undoubtedly would use that sound bite to introduce him to voters statewide.” Bennet may not be the left’s biggest hero today after spurning them on issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, but Coffman has enough fringe ugliness in his background for Bennet to show a clear distinction with the broad center of Colorado voters.

Rothenberg concludes, and from our view there’s nothing with which to disagree:

Democrats have plenty of reasons to keep Colorado on their radar screens, and Republicans have plenty of reasons to look for a strong challenger who can take advantage of the state’s fundamental competitiveness.

But right now, it is much easier for Democrats to defend the seat than it is for Republicans to win it back from Bennet.

These hard facts are a big reason why we’re waiting to see if Coffman makes the jump to the 2016 U.S. Senate race at all, especially with a strong Democratic challenge for his CD-6 seat threatening from Colorado Senate Minority Leader Morgan Carroll. Whatever momentum Colorado Republicans may feel after 2014 is, looking ahead today, fraught with uncertainty–with a very different electorate than the last two U.S. Senate races here, and no “ace in the hole” lying in wait to change the game.

Naturally, we’ll let you know if we see one.

Intra-GOP Confusion Kills 2016 Presidential Primary

Metaphorically speaking.

Metaphorically speaking.

The Denver Post’s John Frank reports on the death in the GOP-controlled Colorado Senate of Senate Bill 15-257, a bill to restore Colorado’s presidential primary election and hold it in the pivotal month of March of an election year. Republican intraparty miscommunication reportedly played a large role in the death of this bipartisan bill:

Sen. Jesse Ulibarri, one of the Democratic sponsors, said he had “no clue” what happened. “This is one of those where I walked away scratching my head,” the Westminster lawmaker said.

Under the bill, Colorado would have held a presidential primary in March that ran parallel with the state’s complicated caucus system. In doing so, it would have allowed unaffiliated voters to play a larger role in selecting the party’s nominees for president and attracted more national political attention. Colorado is considered one of the seven true swing states for the 2016 election.

In addition to both major parties, the bill drew support from prominent Democrats and Republicans, including Senate President Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs. But when it came before the Senate Appropriations Committee, four Republicans voted to kill the bill with three Democrats supporting it…

According to Frank, Senate Republicans claim they were under the impression that new Colorado GOP chairman Steve House did not support restoring a presidential primary election, but that’s not correct: House had put out a statement endorsing the legislation before it was introduced. But as we’ve seen on a number of occasions this session, there may be some excuse-making for the party’s right flank at work here:

[A] more powerful undercurrent came in opposition from conservatives in the party, who believed a primary election would lead to more mainstream Republican candidates with the involvement of unaffiliated voters. [Pols emphasis]

Got that? The real problem here seems to be that the far right wing of the Colorado GOP would lose power over the nominating process with a primary election open to unaffiliated voters, instead of a closed party member-only caucus like we have today. A March primary in which unaffiliated voters could declare affiliation and vote would allow many more people to take part–and for the out-of-the-mainstream ideologues who nominated Rick Santorum in the last Colorado GOP presidential caucuses in 2012, that’s a bad thing.

And apparently, more important than our state being a factor in the 2016 primaries at all.

Coffman Spokesman’s “Principle” of Not Responding to Those Who Might Disagree

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Rep. Mike Coffman.

Rep. Mike Coffman.

The Colorado Independent called Rep. Mike Coffman’s office numerous times over numerous days to find out if Coffman had kept $20,000 in donations from Rep. Aaron Schock, who resigned in disgrace after it became apparent that he was brazenly misspending tax money.

Coffman’s office never called reporter John Tomasic back, but Coffman spokesman Tyler Sandberg did talk to The Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels, telling her, “We donated the money after Aaron Schock resigned and donated it to a veterans organization.”

Sandberg also told Bartels:

“As a matter of principle we don’t respond to fake news websites, nor did we feel a need to trumpet the donation. Sorry to upset the left-wing attack machine so desperate to find a flaw with Mike Coffman.”

The Colorado Independent is not a fake news site. It’s a progressive news site. So, I guess Sandberg is saying he won’t talk to people who might disagree with him?

I wondered which veterans organization received the cash and when it was donated, so I called Sandberg. And, lo, he didn’t return my calls either. So it appears his bogus “principle” applies to me too.

That is, unless I do something he likes.

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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.