2011 Reapportionment Chairman Slams Latest “Reform” Attempt

housef1As Colorado’s political class continues to figure out what to make of Initiative 107, the product of out-of-work legislators and political operatives to “reform” the state’s redistricting and reapportionment process ahead of the 2020 census, the chairman of the Colorado Reapportionment Commission from 2011, unaffiliated voter Mario Carrera, released a statement this morning panning the new initiative:

The national movement to tamper with the maps that dictate the lines for the Legislative and Congressional districts is one of the reasons why voters have such low approval ratings of Congress and other elected bodies. Voters do not trust politicians to make decisions that define our representation. Colorado absolutely needs to get this right.

The Coloradans behind Initiative 107 have taken some very important steps to raise the issue of taking politics out of drawing these maps and their efforts should be applauded, but no less than our democracy is at stake. And, as a result, it’s important that we engage in a more inclusive, thoughtful, deliberate and transparent process. Why the rush?

The laudable goal of ending gerrymandering deserves praise. However, the proverbial gerrymander, is in “the eye of the beholder and only known when seen”. As such, it’s critical that we have a process that accounts for fair representation in our State.

Mario Carrera.

Mario Carrera.

As for the latest version of the proposed ballot measure, Initiative 107, Carrera lays out a range of concerns:

– The mathematics on the voting do not work and, because of the supermajority needed for passage, encourages a logjam;

– As devised, too much burden and responsibility are placed on the non-partisan staff without the due accountability and benefit of a public or elected official appointment;

– The legislative branch has too great a role in appointing members to the commission, at the exclusion of appointments from our judicial system, which is particularly concerning given the goal of reducing partisanship. The inherent checks and balances of our three branches of government do not exist.

The bottom line, as we said on Friday and Carrera notes again in today’s statement, is that this initiative is being pushed on voters at a time when there’s simply no call for it. The last redistricting/reapportionment round in 2011 produced much in the way of partisan fireworks for inside-baseball political types like ourselves, but the actual maps that resulted have stood the test of their intended purpose: compact, sensibly-drawn districts that give diverse communities their voice, and provide a competitive landscape for our state’s closely-divided voters.

In order to successfully campaign for a change to something so fundamental to our political process, it’s necessary to demonstrate how the status quo is a problem–and if it is, how specifically a proposed change would help. Dropping this initiative years before the next round of redistricting and reapportionment, with no clear narrative of a problem needing to be solved, invites straightforward questions about its true purpose.

Without good answers, and soon, this initiative is going nowhere.

Warmed-Over Redistricting Ballot Measure Returns

the-original-ma-gerrymanderedAs the Colorado Independent’s Marianne Goodland reports, a redistricting ballot measure that a “bipartisan coalition” of lawmakers and officials (more on that in a moment) have been threatening to introduce, only to be beaten back by intense criticism, is on the table once again:

Initiative 107 was filed this morning by former Speaker of the House Frank McNulty, a Highlands Ranch Republican, and former lawmaker Kathleen Curry, who was a registered Democrat for years until switching to unaffiliated in 2010.

The proposed ballot measure is the second effort by McNulty and others, including former Secretary of State Bernie Buescher, a Democrat, to change how the state draws the maps for Colorado’s seven congressional districts and 100 legislative seats.

The first attempt, submitted in November, immediately drew howls of protest from voting rights activists and minority groups who claimed the ballot measure would have disenfranchised minority voters…

As we discussed the last time this proposal surfaced last November, nobody really understands what is driving it–other than sour grapes that Republicans apparently still have stemming from the last redistricting and reapportionment round  in 2011. You’ll recall that Republicans complained mightily that the process was being stacked against them as Democrats focused on competitive districts. The problem is., dire predictions from the GOP that the maps resulting from that process would shut them out of political power unfairly have not come to pass–as of today, Republicans have a one-seat majority in the congressional delegation, and the state legislature is split between a Democratic House and a Republican Senate.

So what’s the problem this ballot measure would try to solve? It’s anybody’s guess:

Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, a Commerce City Democrat, has been vocal and angry about the way the redistricting effort has been handled. He told The Colorado Independent this morning that he saw the latest version just last night, so there hasn’t been enough time to properly vet the draft with voting rights or minority groups.

“The entire proposal, in least in what I’ve seen, is designed to fail and to guarantee an outcome for partisan interest over the interests of communities,” he said. [Pols emphasis]

Hutchins reports that James Mejia, a Democrat who took withering fire from colleagues after signing on in support of the last version, has withdrawn from the campaign. The Republicans heading up the campaign as of this writing are former House Speaker Frank McNulty and longtime GOP operative Alan Philp, who most Democrats will rightly not trust any further than they can throw. That leaves former House Speaker Mark Ferrandino and former Secretary of State Bernie Buescher to try to sell this plan to Democratic voters, assuming they themselves remain on board as the initiative proceeds.

One interesting theory we’ve heard about why this initiative is being pushed so hard this year involves another proposal from Republican strategist Josh Penry to increase the threshold to pass constitutional amendments from a simple majority to 55%. Much like the passage of the “single subject rule” not long after passing the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights created a situation where TABOR could not be easily repealed, locking a bad redistricting plan into the constitution before raising the bar on passing amendments makes a lot of sense.

But for everyone else–Democrats for whom the current process worked fine, reasonable Republicans who can see today it was fine for them too, and above all voters being asked to make big changes to solve a contrived “problem”–none of it makes any sense.

Coloradans Reject “Liar Keyser”

Following a petition drive in January to expose the ethically questionable record of Rep. Jon Keyser, ProgressNow Colorado, the state’s largest online advocacy organization, released comments from the public showing Coloradans are tired of dishonest right-wing politicians who will say and do anything to win elections. This comes after Washington, D.C.-based ethics group American Democracy Legal Fund filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission alleging Keyser broke campaign finance laws. Last month, ProgressNow Colorado filed a complaint with the Judge Advocate General regarding Keyser’s alleged campaigning for office on government time.

“From playing politics on the taxpayer’s dime to lying about our elections, Jon Keyser has very serious ethical problems that make him unfit to serve,” stated Alan Franklin, political director of ProgressNow Colorado. “When we inform Coloradans about the truth of Keyser’s record, they want nothing to do with him.”

Here are just a few comments received from ProgressNow Colorado members about Keyser’s ethics scandals:

Karen in Littleton: “Jon Keyser–really? what lengths you have gone to mislead the public! I would be embarrassed to put my name out there again. You have to know that you will be thoroughly vetted and those looking for the truth will shine a spotlight on past indiscretions. Coloradans deserve trustworthy politicians to represent their interests in Washington.”

Clinton in Parker: “Why would you setup the ‘straw man’ of voter fraud? There was little evidence, and your false documents just emphasize how political you made this and the danger you pose to honest citizens.”

Sylvia in Boulder: “I’m a teacher. If one of my students had falsified information the way it appears you’ve done, I would have given him a couple of extra assignments, asked for a public apology, and hoped he’d learned a lesson about honesty. Character building, I’d call it. Do you have any such plans for yourself?”

Lyn in Lakewood: “What you did was deliberately mislead Colorado voters in a partisan ruse to make us think there was massive, deliberate voter fraud. We’ll keep your snake-oil hocus-pocus in mind come time for us to vote.”

Elisa in Hotchkiss: “Lying to influence issues important to the voters, or on any issues, is unethical and shameful.”

Alice in Wheat Ridge: “We don’t trust a liar and we don’t vote them into Congress.”

“Once the voters have a chance to see Jon Keyser for who he really is, they can see he is not ready to serve in the U.S. Senate,” said Franklin. “What sounds good on paper or in a Washington, D.C. backroom doesn’t always work on the ground here in Colorado. After Cory Gardner’s deceitful campaign in 2014, the message we’re getting from Coloradans is clear: we won’t be fooled again.”

Progressives Demand Accountability As “Liar Keyser” Pattern Emerges

(As originally reported here and here – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Last week, ProgressNow Colorado requested an investigation of Keyser with the Judge Advocate General of the Air Force for violating rules while campaigning behind the scenes during his time in the Air Force Reserve. Keyser claimed in response that he was not actually “in uniform” when he conducted the interview, but admitted he was campaigning behind the scenes while serving. Today, ProgressNow Colorado called on Keyser to apologize for misleading voters with unfounded allegations of fraud in Colorado’s mail ballot elections.

In 2013 Jon Keyser, then a candidate for the Colorado House, posted a photo on social media of “two ballots” he received, claiming this was evidence of a “failed system” passed by Democrats that year. In truth, Keyser’s “second ballot” was for a single ballot question related to property he owned elsewhere in the state. The photo Keyser posted intentionally concealed the return address of the second ballot to falsely imply he had received two complete ballots for the same election. [1]

“Jon Keyser knew exactly what he was doing,” said ProgressNow Colorado political director Alan Franklin. “Colorado Republicans led by then-Secretary of State Scott Gessler were desperate to convince voters that Democrats had somehow sabotaged the election system. Gessler’s friend Keyser was more than happy to help promote this fiction, then had to make silly excuses for his antics when debunked by fellow Republican county clerks.”

“The fact is, Colorado is a leader in modernizing our election system to increase participation,” said Franklin. “When the new law was passed, opponents immediately claimed it would result in massive election fraud that, as it turns out, never happened. But some Republicans like Jon Keyser were so eager to protect the status quo they invented bogus ‘fraud’ cases out of thin air.”

“Voters deserve an elected official who plays by the rules and is honest with the people of Colorado,” said Franklin. “The more we see from Jon Keyser, the more it becomes clear he is simply not an honest player.”

Ill-Conceived Redistricting “Fix” Collapsing Under Own Weight

James Mejia (in the Democratic doghouse).

James Mejia (in the Democratic doghouse).

If there was ever a time in which the sudden push for a “fix” for Colorado’s arguably unbroken system of redrawing congressional districts we’ve seen in recent weeks made sense, that time is rapidly passing as questions about the timing and true purpose of a “bipartisan” ballot initiative grow. As the Colorado Independent’s Marianne Goodland reported Friday:

“It’s backroom politics at its worst,” said state Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, D-Westminster. [Pols emphasis]

Initiative 55, as the measure is known, seeks to take the politics out of an inherently political process — the drawing of Colorado’s Congressional and legislative districts. The Congressional maps have been drafted by the General Assembly, with most of those efforts ending up in court for final resolution. State legislative districts are drawn by an independent commission that’s appointed by lawmakers and other state officials. Those results often end up in court, too.

The original language of Initiative 55 — submitted last month by former Speaker of the House Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch and former Secretary of State Bernie Buescher, D-Grand Junction — triggered concerns that the measure would disempower voters of color, which the Voting Rights Act attempted to strengthen…

Ulibarri told The Colorado Independent that the language of 55 isn’t the same as other redistricting efforts that have been passed in other states, and that the fine print of the measure intends to break up communities of color and fracture their political voices. He has raised his concerns with the ballot measure sponsors McNulty and Buescher, and asked for a chance to be at the table for discussions about the language. That hasn’t happened. Instead, Ulibarri is being told to submit concerns to Mejia.

The Denver Post’s Joey Bunch also covered this story Friday.

Former Denver Public Schools board member James Mejia is emerging as a major loser in this faltering effort, as it’s becoming increasingly clear that he is the “Democrat” primarily responsible for branding the proposal as “bipartisan.” It’s unknown how much Mejia has been paid by organizers of the ballot measure, but it’s hard to imagine the check was worth the loss of face Mejia is experiencing as fellow Democrats line up against him.

A key meeting Thursday organized by Sen. Jessie Ulibarri and other legislators seems to have sealed the fate of this proposal, at least in terms of it attracting any significant Democratic support in its present form. As of this writing, just about every stakeholder to the left of the Republican Party has seen the facts of how it could harm minority voters.

But beyond that, as the controversy grows over this proposal, its whole logical basis comes into question. Yes, the redistricting and reapportionment process in Colorado happened last time under Democratic control. But the current Republican majority making up Colorado’s congressional delegation and split control of the legislature between the two parties very straightforwardly demonstrates the lack of a problem with the status quo. The fact is, we have very competitive districts in Colorado. Our current process for drawing legislative maps gets testy at times, but the results would seem to speak for themselves. If you accept that, this whole business is a solution in search of a problem.

And when you ask the next logical question, why is it happening at all? James Mejia has no good answers.

Rep. Don “Quixote” Coram Promises to Fix Non-Existent Voter Fraud in Colorado

Prepare thyself for tilting, dastardly windmill!

Prepare thyself, windmill, for Don “Quixote” Coram comes to do some tilting.

Montrose Republican Rep. Don “Quixote” Coram wants to require voters to present identification at polling places, and as he told the Montrose Daily Press last week, Don’s will…will be done.

One way or another, a measure to require voter ID at the polls will be on the 2016 ballot, Rep. Don Coram said.

Coram, a Montrose Republican, announced Friday during a Montrose Chamber legislative preview that he intends to introduce a concurrent resolution in the Colorado House that would require identification from those voting in person on election days…

Vote ID laws have been criticized by the New York Times and others as deliberate attempts to discourage or prevent voting among people who do not have money or means to obtain the necessary identification; a sort of backdoor poll tax.

“It’s a matter of safety,” contended Coram. “There are a few cases where (ballot) is returned to the county clerk because there is no person by that name at that address,” Coram said. “You can come in with a utility bill and say you want to vote.”

Voter fraud is not prevalent, he said. “But how much is enough?” [Pols emphasis]

Rep. Don "Quixote" Coram (R-Montrose)

Rep. Don “Quixote” Coram (R-Montrose)

Boy, Rep. Coram sure sounds excited about combating voter fraud. He sounds so intent, in fact, that we almost hate to mention that there is still no evidence that voter fraud exists in Colorado AT ALL. Let’s revisit this November 11 story from the Aurora Sentinel:

An Arapahoe County jury last week acquitted a man of voter fraud charges, bringing to a close a 2013 voter fraud investigation that identified more than 100 suspects but produced just one conviction…

The two men were among four charged in 2013 as part of a large-scale and controversial voter fraud investigation launched by former Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler.

Gessler had identified more than 100 people he said illegally voted, but the four charged in Arapahoe County were the only people in Colorado to face charges.

In early 2011, newly-elected Secretary of State Scott Gessler testified in Congress that some 16,270 people were illegally registered to vote in Colorado, and some 5,000 of them actually cast ballots in the 2010 election. Gessler wasn’t exactly “Captain Credibility” by that point anyway, but his out-of-left-field numbers of illegal voter registrations immediately raised eyebrows among politicos in Colorado and Washington D.C.

A few months later, Gessler inexplicably reduced that number by a significant amount, claiming to have narrowed the list down to 155 non-citizen voters. Then, in 2012, Gessler sent letters to 4,000 Coloradans he suspected to be illegally-registered to vote. Fast-forward back to November 2015, and you find that “1” is indeed the loneliest of numbers.

To recap, here’s the progression of the number of “illegal voters” in Colorado, per Gessler and his magic 8-ball:

16,270 ⇒  5,000  ⇒  155  ⇒  4,000  ⇒  4   ⇒  2   ⇒ 1

Ever since Gessler first made his bold accusations in 2011, County Clerks from across Colorado have repeatedly denied that there were any known cases of voter fraud in their counties. Ever. At all. Undeterred, Gessler convinced his patsy, Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, to press forward with criminal charges that resulted in finding one person who was (knowingly) illegally registered to vote but likely never actually cast a ballot. Thank goodness we put a stop to that!

Colorado has spent an absurd amount of time and money over the last couple of years in an effort to discover this illegally-voting Bigfoot character, and at every turn Colorado has uncovered a whole bucket full of nothin’. Rep. Coram isn’t going to go out on another limb by throwing out new numbers attributed to illegal voters, so instead, he just says, “how much is enough?”

We were thinking the exact same thing, Rep. Coram. How much is enough indeed?

State Sen. Crowder sides with Hickenlooper on Syrian refugee policy

Sen. Larry Crowder.

Sen. Larry Crowder.

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

State Sen. Larry Crowder (R-Alamosa) has sided with Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper in arguing that Colorado should still welcome Syrian refugees to the state, despite calls by some state lawmakers to ban them from coming here.

Rocky Mountain Community Radio’s Bente Birkeland reports:

Republican State Sen. Larry Crowder of Alamosa says Colorado and the country should not change the refugee resettlement program in the wake of the Paris attacks.

He was one of 10 Republicans not to sign the letter [asking Gov. John Hickenlooper to block Syrian refugees from coming to the state]. He says politicians are reacting with fear.

“When you talk about people who drop everything that they had and run for their lives, what we need to do is start realizing what our responsibility as a world citizen is,” [said Crowder].

Listen here. 

Birkeland mentioned that Hickenlooper supports the existing two-year vetting process for Syrian refugees.

Election Night Open Thread

You may begin…

Jefferson County Election Results

♦ Colorado Election Results (via Secretary of State’s Office)

♦ Denver Post results page

—–
UPDATE #3: After getting off to a scary start, Proposition BB (Marijuana taxes) has rebounded:

Proposition BB
YES: 510,953 (66.51%)
NO: 257,264 (33.49%)

—–
UPDATE #2: The closest race of the night might be in Lakewood, where the race for the next Mayor is neck-and-neck:

Adam Paul: 17,217 (50.09%)
Ramey Johnson: 17,153 (49.91%)

—–
UPDATE #1: First batch of numbers are out in Jefferson County, and the recall is well on its way to becoming a runaway winner…

Jefferson County School District Open Seats:

District 3
Ali Lasell: 74,749 (57.95%)
Kim Johnson: 54,245 (42.05%)

District 4
Amanda Stevens: 85,037 (67%)
Tori Merritts: 42,324 (33%)

 

Recall Election
District 1 (Julie Williams)
YES: 96,160 (64.4%)
NO: 53,178 (35.6%)

District 2 (John Newkirk)
YES: 94,871 (63.8%)
NO: 53,841 (36.2%)

District 5 (Ken Witt)
YES: 95,509 (64.38%)
NO: 52,848 (35.6%)

Recalling Coffman’s proposal for English-only ballots, as the Voting Rights Act turns 50

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

coffmantrump3Over the weekend, I enjoyed reading Jim Rutenberg’s piece in the New York Times magazine on how conservatives have methodically dismantled the Voting Rights Act, which turns 50 on Thursday, culminating in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 decision gutting major provisions of the law.

Here at home, one conservative who’s thrown his congressional spear at the Voting Rights Act, widely credited for finally giving African-Americans actual factual access to the voting booth, is Rep. Mike Coffman of Aurora.

Coffman, you recall, introduced legislation in 2011 repealing the law’s requirement that bilingual ballots be provided in areas with large numbers of voters don’t speak English very well.

In other words, Coffman wanted to leave the decision about whether to provide bilingual ballots to local authorities, and if you take the time to read Rutenberg’s article, you’ll see that, as much as we’d all like to believe otherwise, local politicians are apparently still trying to keep black Americans from voting. That’s why we need federal requirements for stuff like bilingual ballots–to make sure everyone can participate in democracy, such as it is.

But Coffman, who once suggested that immigrants “pull out a dictionary” if they’re having trouble understanding an English ballot, doesn’t see it that way.

Coffman: “Since proficiency in English is already a requirement for U.S. citizenship, forcing cash-strapped local governments to provide ballots in a language other than English makes no sense at all,” Coffman told the Denver Post in 2011.

Last year, Coffman doubled down on his support for English-only ballots, saying during a Univision debate that he still opposes the Voting Rights Act’s requirements for mailing Spanish-language ballots, because it’s expensive.

But Coffman said it in a more friendly way, “I would hope that every voter will be able to get the information that he needs in a language he can understand.”

Again, most of us have to share Coffman’s hope, but there’s also reality lurking out there, embodied in politicians who care more about self-preservation than democracy. And you can read about it in the New York Times.

Wayne Williams Gets Some Expert PR Help

Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

Secretary of State Wayne Williams.

The biggest story in Colorado politics today is the departure of Colorado’s foremost political news reporter, Lynn Bartels of the Denver Post, to take a new job as spokesperson for GOP Secretary of State Wayne Williams. From Williams’ press release this morning, released just after word spread on social media of Bartels’ decision to leave the Post:

“I am thrilled that Lynn has decided to join our team,” said Williams. “When Coloradans think of Lynn Bartels they think of experience, professionalism, and humor.”

Bartels has worked in Colorado since 1993 when she was hired by the Rocky Mountain News, where she won numerous awards for a variety of stories, ranging from the one-year anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing to Denver’s 2003 mayoral race. The Denver Post hired Bartels in 2009 after the Rocky closed. She worked in New Mexico before moving to Denver. In 2015, The Washington Post named Bartels as one of Colorado’s best state political reporters.

“I am forever grateful that The Denver Post gave me a home when the Rocky closed,” Bartels said. “It’s hard to imagine a life outside of journalism but my dog is very happy that I’m going to give it a try. I am very excited for this new opportunity.”

Bartels said she was impressed last year when the left-leaning Colorado Springs Independent and the only two Democratic mayors in El Paso County endorsed Williams, a Republican, for Secretary of State because of how he ran the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder’s Office.

Bartels added, “I’ve liked Wayne ever since he lent me $20 at the Republican National Convention in the Twin Cities in 2008 after I left my billfold at the hotel. By the way, I paid it back.”

Jason Salzman just posted Bartels’ warm letter to colleagues at the Denver Post. On social media, the outpouring of gratitude to Bartels for her years of political coverage has been quite a thing to witness. But Colorado politicos won’t have to go far to find Bartels, whose new job working for Secretary of State Wayne Williams keeps her close at hand.

And as we discussed last October during his campaign for statewide office, Wayne Williams could use some PR expertise in his office. Williams’ disastrous appearance on FOX News with host Megyn Kelly, in which Kelly tried to keep pre-election panic over false rumors of “printing ballots” in Colorado alive while simultaneously correcting her previous report on the matter, could fairly be considered disqualifying from political office. Williams stumbled through a ridiculous scenario of mail ballot fraud that involved “family members and union bosses” intimidating mail ballot voters. The next day, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow eviscerated Williams (and Kelly) in a particularly glorious two minutes of cable news video you can watch above. Despite this, Williams coasted to victory in a statewide downballot race that was more or less a fait accompli from the beginning.

Bottom line: our sense of loss reckoning with the departure of the state’s most seasoned political reporter is sincere, as are our good luck wishes to Bartels in her new job. On the latter point, she’s going to need it.

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.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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.