2013′s Top Story: The GOP (Temporarily) Strikes Back

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The 2012 elections sounded another new low for the Colorado Republican Party. Angered by the GOP state house majority's extraordinary measures to kill LGBT civil union legislation at the end of the 2012 session, voters threw out the single-seat Republican majority, restoring Democrats to full control of the General Assembly by a healthy margin. The 2010 round of legislative reapportionment is considered by most observers to have gone badly for Republicans as well, with a large number of newly competitive districts ill-suited to the staunch conservative candidates favored by the GOP primary process.

With the exception of the 2010 "Republican wave" election, in which Republicans still fell short of their goals but managed to take the state house by a single seat, the GOP has been losing elections in Colorado since 2004. The reversal of Republican fortunes from their dominance in the late Nineties through 2002 to Democratic dominance at every level of state government since then has been the subject of books like Blueprint by Adam Schrager and Rob Witwer. Safe to say, the past decade has been very, very tough for the morale of Colorado Republicans.

And then last year, an opportunity to strike back presented itself.

manholdingwomensignIn the wake of mass shootings in 2012 in Aurora, Colorado and in Newtown, Connecticut, support grew among Colorado Democrats to introduce gun safety legislation in the 2013 session. On the morning of the Newtown shooting, Gov. John Hickenlooper was quoted by the Denver Post as having had a change of heart from the aftermath of Aurora in the summer–when he basically said that new gun laws wouldn't help. The news later that day powerfully reinforced Hickenlooper's new view.

As we documented in this space, the campaign to pass gun safety legislation in 2013 turned into the biggest political battle in the Colorado legislature in recent history. Democrats were besieged by pro-gun activists and agitated gun owning members of the public. Crowds of people turned out to testify against the bills, overwhelming hearings, while others drove around the state capitol continuously sounding their horns. Gun owners were in many cases duped by falsehoods about the proposed legislation, being explicitly told by GOP legislators and gun-rights activists that the bills would "ban gun ownership in Colorado." Other alarmist falsehoods, like claims that legislation to limit magazine capacity would "ban all magazines," were pushed by gun activists and uncritically reported by a thoughtless local media.

The result of this misinformed free-for-all was a bitterly angry segment of voters willing to work full time to defeat Democrats responsible for gun safety legislation. As a result of the intense campaign of misinformation by the gun lobby and allied Republicans, a huge gap emerged in public opinion between polled opposition to the vague concept of "gun control," even as they register support–in some cases overwhelming support–for the bills actually passed by the Colorado General Assembly.

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More Cheap Ballot Tricks, Clarice Navarro-Ratzlaff Edition

Rep. Clarice Navarro-Ratzlaff (R).

Rep. Clarice Navarro-Ratzlaff (R).

Back in October, we took note of claims by a Jefferson County GOP Colorado House candidate, attorney Jon Keyser, that he had "received two mail in ballots" for the 2013 elections. Keyser took to social media right away with photos of his "two ballots," pronouncing them evidence of a "failed system" for voting in Colorado. Keyser's "two ballots" came at a time when Republicans were doing and saying anything they could to undermine confidence in the election process, principally to cast doubt on 2013's election modernization bill House Bill 1303.

As it turned out, Keyser was engaged in a cheap deception to reinforce GOP claims that the election system is "broken." The second ballot Keyser received was for a tax district special election related to property Keyser owns on the West Slope. At no time did Keyser receive two ballots with duplicate ballot questions that would allow him to vote twice, which was his clear implication. After the source of Keyser's "second ballot" was tracked down to Delta County, Keyser claimed to have shredded the ballots. By that time, the game was already up.

Well folks, as the Colorado Independent's John Tomasic reported late last night, Jon Keyser may not have been the only Colorado Republican politician playing games with their ballots:

Lawmaker Clarice Navarro-Ratzlaff represents one of the state’s most competitive districts, House District 47. She held a fundraiser cocktail party tonight at the Warwick Hotel here that surely attracted many of the state’s top Republican politicos. The list likely includes Secretary of State Scott Gessler. The two are friendly. Navarro-Ratzlaff endorsed him for governor this summer, and Gessler sent out a tweet earlier in the day recruiting fundraiser attendees. It’s a safe bet the two worked together to fire up the Warwick cocktail crowd by talking about the need to guard against voter fraud. It wouldn’t be the first time they worked together to stoke heat around an issue that galvanizes Republican voters in the state.

Gessler and Navarro-Ratzlaff were the exclusive sources for a 2012 version of what has become a fairly regular series of headline-grabbing but loosely reported election-integrity stories pushed by the right-wing blogosphere to bolster arguments that laws that encourage voting by making it easier to cast ballots — like those that allow for same-day registration and universal mail-in ballots — should be repealed and replaced with stricter voter ID laws.

Channel 5 KOAA in Pueblo reported that some voters in the county had received duplicate ballots. It later came out that double ballots went out to roughly 200 of the county’s 60,000 registered voters…

Navarro-Ratzlaff said she was one of the voters who received two ballots.

“It makes you question how valid each election is, and elections are very important to the state of Colorado and Pueblo in general,” she told viewers. “So it’s very concerning.”

…KOAA didn’t report that Navarro-Ratzlaff was running for the statehouse in a competitive swing district that year. And Navarro-Ratzlaff didn’t tell viewers that the reason she received two ballots was because she had registered under two different names in a two-week period after moving to Pueblo the year before. [Pols emphasis]

According to Bent and Pueblo county documents reviewed by the Independent, Navarro-Ratzlaff registered on September 30, 2011, as Clarice Yvette Navarro, her maiden name, and on October 14, 2011, as Clarice Yvette Ratzlaff, her married name.

Now according to the Independent, Rep. Clarice Navarro-Ratzlaff claims she has "no idea" why she apparently registered twice under her maiden and married names. The Bent County clerk interviewed for the story says that these sort of mistakes happen, generally as a result of the voter's mistake, saying "people are often distracted when filling out the forms." The problem is, Navarro-Raztlaff told the Independent she's been married for ten years, that her married name is what's on her license, and she can't explain the use of her maiden name in any voter registration.

So what gives? With Mr. Keyser's example to guide us, we have a theory.

This incident took place during a heated court battle between Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert Ortiz and Secretary of State Scott Gessler over the delivery of mail ballots for the 2011 elections. Along with the as-yet unknown number of duplicate ballots mistakenly sent to voters, later determined to be about 200 and which were all identified and caught, it's easy to understand how Gessler could have used a little, you know, extra boost for his case in the media against "Bo" Ortiz. Then candidate, now Rep. Navarro-Ratzlaff was happy to oblige.

By the look of things today, it seems she was a bit too happy.

Jon Caldara Skates on Fraud Charge: “Neener-Neener-Neener”

UPDATE: Colorado Ethics Watch director Luis Toro releases a statement:

"Considering the incredible amount of resources spent in a futile attempt to prove that voter fraud exists in Colorado and is perpetrated by non-citizens, it is a shame that the Attorney General's office has elected not to prosecute Jon Caldara for his highly-public vote in the El Paso County special election while maintaining a Boulder home to which he quickly returned after the election. Nothing increases cynicism in government more than the specter of a highly-lawyered, wealthy individual getting away with something that would be treated as a crime if committed by almost anyone else.

"Those who care about election integrity can take some comfort, though. Caldara's elaborate ruse, including signing a temporary lease in an effort to create the appearance of being a Colorado Springs resident, actually showed how difficult it is to vote in a different district by claiming a new residence without running afoul of Colorado's criminal law against false statements of residency while voting. While Caldara may walk, we fully expect the Attorney General to prosecute vigorously those who foolishly followed his example without all the careful staging that enabled Caldara's lawyers to suggest the existence of reasonable doubt. In the end, Caldara proved only that there is nothing wrong with Colorado's election laws that can't be solved by a dedicated prosecutor enforcing the law as written."

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Jon Caldara.

Jon Caldara.

As the Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reports, Jon Caldara of the conservative Independence Institute will face no criminal charges, closing a three-month investigation by the Attorney General's office into his registering to vote in the El Paso County Senate District 11 recall election despite longtime residence in Boulder:

First Attorney General Robert Shapiro concluded in a letter to Caldara that there is "arguable ambiguity within some of the new legislation," which makes same-day voter registration legal in Colorado.

But the letter also made clear that Attorney General John Suthers office doesn't condone Caldara's behavior, the "legitimacy" of his living arrangement in Colorado Springs was "suspicious" and it was questionable that he ever intended to become an El Paso County resident.

"I told you what I did was legal," Caldara said Thursday, adding "neener-neener-neener."

He said the legislature, which convenes Wednesday, must address the problem of same-day voter registration. Otherwise he predicted "a Great Voter Migration of 2014." Republicans and Democrats could "move" from safe districts into swing seats where their votes could make a difference, Caldara said.

Asked about the attorney general office's comments questioning his sincerity in moving, Caldara said, "The law is not about how they feel. The law is about my intention that they have to prove or disprove. I followed the law."

Watchdog group Colorado Ethics Watch was quick to respond via Twitter:

We haven't seen any other statements yet on the Attorney General's decision (see CEW's updated statement above), but we've already heard complaints that Republican Suthers' office is showing blatant partisan favoritism to well-known conservative troublemaker Caldara with this decision. It's tough to speculate without seeing the full letter from the AG's office, but these remarks about "suspicion" over Caldara's "intent" to relocate to Colorado Springs strike us as willfully ignorant of Caldara's stated intentions. Caldara's original press release announcing his plan to register to vote in SD-11 made it obvious he never had any intention of relocating to Colorado Springs, and was always intending to cheat the system. After the recall election, Caldara made a callous joke out of massive floods then impacting the state by using them as his excuse to "make Boulder his permanent home" after all.

As for those of you who thought Caldara, via this stunt to "legally" commit vote fraud or his excuses afterward, had finally gone too far this time? Today you have your answer.

"Neener-neener-neener."

2013′s Top Ten #7: “Honey Badger” Marches Toward Disaster

Scott Gessler.

Scott Gessler.

Colorado Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler's time in office has been, by any objective yardstick, an unqualified disaster. In only three years, Gessler has stepped into more controversy, scandalous partisan double-dealing, and outright malfeasance than any statewide Colorado officeholder in recent memory. As Colorado's chief elections officer, Gessler has come to practically embody partisan bad faith, and gaming of the system to favor his own.

But instead of getting ready to slink back to his GOP electioneering law firm at the conclusion of a term in office that made an absolute mockery of good government, Scott Gessler is now running for governor–as we first reported he would over a year ago. The story behind Gessler's unlikely "failure upward" is worth summarizing again for the record.

From the very start, Gessler made it clear that he would push the limits of the rules. Immediately after taking office in 2011, Gessler declared his intention to continue "moonlighting" for his old law firm specializing in election law, the Hackstaff Group (formerly Hackstaff Gessler). Gessler abandoned that plan after receiving an undisclosed opinion on the propriety of such an arrangement from fellow Republican Attorney General John Suthers. Gessler's office then launched headlong into a massive campaign to ferret out what he originally insisted was "thousands" of noncitizens illegally voting in Colorado elections. Three years later, that claim has fallen completely flat, with only four indictments by a friendly DA, and no evidence whatsoever of the wide-scale fraud Gessler insisted was already taking place. Meanwhile, his office lost hundreds of real, legal voter registrations after a mobile voter registration site mysteriously failed in the midst of a union-sponsored voter registration campaign.

Gessler has long claimed that Colorado campaign finance law is "too strict." In practice, that has led to a dramatic weakening of enforcement of campaign finance disclosure laws, and eye-popping moments of unacceptable partisan favoritism. After the Larimer County GOP chairman was busted for embezzling party funds and failing to file proper disclosures of party finances, Gessler slashed the fines owed by the county party from $50,000 to $16,000, then held a fundraiser for Larimer County Republicans to help raise the balance. Gessler's original plan to appear in a dunk tank to raise money for the Larimer County GOP was cancelled after basically every editorial board in the state freaked out about the impropriety.

In 2012, Gessler spent discretionary funds from his office account to attend numerous partisan events, including a partisan vote suppression "watchdog" event in Washington DC hosted by True the Vote, and the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. Gessler attempted to cover for the trip to the RNC by claiming an event immediately prior to the convention, the Republican National Lawyers Association's conference, was a permissibly "nonpartisan" use of the funds. The Colorado Independent Ethics Commission rejected Gessler's arguments, and ruled that Gessler had "violated the public trust for private gain." Gessler was assessed the maximum fine allowable for this infraction, which he is now appealing in court.

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Guns Gone Wild: Springs father kills 14 yr. old step-daughter

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

NRA won the battle here and helped perpetuate further gun violence and needless deaths:

A Colorado Springs father fatally shot his teenage step-daughter Monday, saying he thought she was a burglar. Prior to the incident, police received a call about a burglary in progress. But when they got there, they found the 14-year-old with a gunshot wound. She was taken to the hospital and died soon after, according to CBS Denver.

Police have not said yet if they will file charges against the Colorado Springs father whose name has not been released, but Colorado is one of many states that has a “shoot first” law that authorizes the use of deadly force in defense of one’s home, and shields individuals who do so from any criminal or civil charges. Although Colorado does not have a Stand Your Ground law, it does have its own version of what is known as the Castle Doctrine, which allows homeowners to use deadly force to protect their dwelling without a duty to retreat. The law was dubbed the “Make My Day,” law after the 1983 Clint Eastwood film ”Sudden Impact,” in which Detective Harry Callahan — “Dirty Harry” — aims a gun at a criminal suspect and says, ”Go ahead, make my day.”

The statute is particularly broad because it authorizes deadly force not just for fear of great bodily harm or death, but anytime a person “has made an unlawful entry into the dwelling, and when the occupant has a reasonable belief that such other person has committed a crime in the dwelling in addition to the uninvited entry, or is committing or intends to commit a crime against a person or property.” Castle doctrine laws that empower civilians with guns to take the law into their own hands have been associated with many tragedies.

What more can be said? This is not surprising in the least. The NRA, with the help of local politicians and radical partisans, has glorified the gun culture and ramped up the paranoia of citizens to the point where this type of tragedy is a regular occurence. That's not to say accidents like this could or would never happen, but the gun rights side consistently stretches the truth, browbeats politicians, and perverts the political process to make sure of one thing: there are more guns in the hands of more people who are more inclined to use them at the drop of a hat.

Gessler confirms Democrats will retain Hudak seat at least through next general election

Speaking on KOA’s Mike Rosen Show Wed., Secretary of State Scott Gessler said that Colorado Democrats will hold State Sen. Evie Hudak’s seat at least until the next general election in Nov. 2014.

Rosen: So, all things being equal, the Democrats will retain their 18-17 majority in the State Senate through the 2014 session….

Gessler: “That’s correct. Unless someone wants to recall another state senator. But not that I’m advocating for that at the moment. But yeah, currently, that’s the way things are going to work out.  And the Democrats will retain their 18-17 majority. They will cling to it.”

Gessler’s comments, which were not reported by real journalists, are important because recall organizers pledged last week to forge on with signature gathering, hoping that somehow, some way, their efforts would lead to a recall election in Hudak’s Westminster district. Gessler’s comments appear to officially close the door on the Hudak recall campaign.

So You Like Recalls, Do You? Get Ready For More

More to this easily-missed comment on the Recall Hudak Too campaign's Facebook page than meets the eye:

recallmarble

This year has already witnessed the first two recalls of sitting Colorado legislators in our state's history, and an attempt on a third state senator is presently underway. Victory in the two recalls held this past summer has put Colorado Republicans within a single seat of taking control of the Colorado Senate. With the balloting process thrown into disarray by a court ruling that prevented the normal delivery of mail ballots in recall elections, Republicans have found a way of overcoming growing Democratic dominance in general elections, picking off individual legislators in contests tilted to their advantage.

Well folks, it does appear that two can play at this game. The fact is, freshman Sen. Vicki Marble has had some of the worst embarrassments we've ever seen in such a short legislative career, from her rant against equal pay for women to her disastrous comments about race and diet that made national news. Marble is also a hand-picked Rocky Mountain Gun Owners candidate, which makes her an appealing target for Democratic retaliation against Dudley Brown's heavy involvement in this year's recalls.

To be perfectly honest, we've been waiting for the other shoe to drop.

It's folly to think that Democrats can't succeed in getting a recall election on the ballot against Marble or other Republican legislators. Marble's crazy comments and unappealing votes as part of the Republican caucus can certainly be vilified by petition gatherers, as much as anything Democrats have said and done this year. There's no reason to think that a similar investment of energy and capital to what Republicans have carried out against vulnerable Democrats can't succeed against vulnerable Republicans like Marble. In both cases, it's the aggressors who have the momentum.

We've warned repeatedly this year that successful recall elections had a strong likelihood of leading to more such recalls, and that in the end a vicious retaliatory cycle of recalls substituting for a functional democratic process was a very real possibility. At this point, Democrats have little choice but to fight back in kind, and turn the advantages Republicans have taken in the recalls so far against them.

Like it or not, the genie is out of the bottle.

Peter Boyles Critiques Local Coverage of the Hudak Recall Effort, as Only Peter Boyles Can

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

In the heated battle and drama surrounding the efforts to recall Colorado State Senator Evie Hudak, accusations of malfeasance and misrepesentation have been thrown back and forth, a gubernatorial candidate has proffered obscene gestures, and local news outlets have entered the fray to parse out the truth and report on the contentious issues raised by the two sides.

Never the wallflower, KNUS 710AM radio talk show host, Peter Boyles, has become the media point man for the Recall organization, hosting the organizers Mike McAlpine and Laura Waters in daily appearances for updates and rallying cries. As you might guess, the tone of the show these days is combative and loud.

When KDVR Fox 31's reporter Eli Stokols and KCNC CBS4 Denver's Shaun Boyd ventured into Arvada and Westminster to report on the Recall and efforts to thwart it, they were not spared from Mr. Boyles cutting criticism and confrontation.

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Arapahoe DA Indicts Two Voters, Two Canvassers

Scott Gessler.

Scott Gessler.

As the Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reports, we finally have charges filed against someone–four people, in fact–as a result of Secretary of State Scott Gessler's three-year quest to uncover what he originally insisted was "thousands" of illegal voters in Colorado:

The Arapahoe County district attorney's office has charged four people with misdemeanors after a voter-fraud investigation that tracked more than 40 people and election records dating back to 2008.

Two of the people charged are immigrants — one from Africa who has donated to Democratic causes, the other from Poland — who have been deemed ineligible to vote in Colorado. The other two are Coloradans who worked for a liberal non-profit organization that registered people to vote.

All four are charged with "procuring false registration," according to a news release Friday from Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler's office. The office investigated 41 "non-citizens."

"This is evidence that this is not an epidemic, but there are isolated incidents that need to be treated seriously," Brauchler said.

9NEWS' Brandon Rittiman with reaction from Secretary of State Gessler:

Gessler defends his record saying that snuffing out any amount of voter fraud, however rare, is a goal that justifies his policies.

"I appreciate District Attorney Brauchler's good work," Gessler told 9NEWS. "This news further confirms that there is a vulnerability in the system and is more evidence from across the state showing that confusion and error allow non-citizens to register, and in some cases vote."

Bartels reports that Arapahoe County DA George Brauchler's office spent some 300 man-hours investigating the 41 names referred to his office by Gessler, in the end producing indictments against two improperly registered voters and two paid canvassers from 2008. Brauchler is quickly gaining a reputation as a partisan politician with higher aspirations, and in support of Gessler's dogmatic campaign to uncover noncitizen voters, we're sure he spared no expense. In the end, though, Brauchler's statement that there is "not an epidemic" of voter fraud is reasonable and accurate, and there's nothing inappropriate in his misdemeanor indictments.

Obviously, Democrats are going to nonetheless question such a massive effort to "uncover" an infinitesimal amount of actual trouble. Gessler's insistence that this result in Arapahoe County "confirms" a "vulnerability in the system" is simply laughable. In every meaningful way, the paltry results of Gessler's years-long campaign to root out what he originally insisted was ten thousand or more "illegal voters" speak for themselves, and prove there is no systemic problem with noncitizens voting. The problems uncovered here are anecdotal, not systemic, and in fact are much smaller in number than so many other ways a legal voter's ballot might be compromised, invalidated, folded, bent, spun, or mutilated. As one example, compare this effort to the troubled rollout of Gessler's mobile voter registration website, which "disappeared" the registrations of many hundreds of legal voters. Everybody wants as accurate an election as possible, but what camels were swallowed to strain these proverbial gnats?

It's been said that those who set out with a preconceived expectation usually find what they expect to. In Gessler's case, even when the facts totally fail to support his expectations, he recites the same talking points.

Video: Paid Recall Worker Tells Voter To Lie About Residence

UPDATE: Check out this complaint posted to the Hudak recall campaign's Facebook page:

drunkcirculator

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FOX 31's Eli Stokols again breaks a big story that's bad for the recall campaign against Sen. Evie Hudak:

A man being paid to gather signatures to recall state Sen. Evie Hudak can be heard encouraging a person who lives outside the lawmaker’s district to sign his petition with a fake address in an audio recording released Thursday by a group defending Hudak.

The Democracy Defense Fund, formed to defend Hudak, D-Westminster, sent out a YouTube video of an audio recording of a four-minute exchange between an unidentified petition circulator, who admits to being paid $3 per signature by Kennedy Enterprises, and an unidentified person who is really a DDF staffer with a tape recorder…

“If you write an Arvada address in there, it’s alright,” the petition gatherer says, apparently encouraging the man to lie about his residency. [Pols emphasis]

“So if I just wrote my buddy’s house, you think it would work out?” the man responds.

“The thing is, technically, only out of 100 names — or let’s say out of 1,000 names, only 630 of them have to be real registered voters for me to get paid for the whole job,” the petition circulator says.

“It’s basically six out of ten — makes it a little easier for me.”

One of the things that has made Democrats nervous as the recall signature campaign against Sen. Evie Hudak got underway were reports that organizers had adopted a validation screening procedure similar to the method against against Sen. Angela Giron in Pueblo. By pre-screening prospective petition signers against a mobile-accessible voter file spreadsheet to ensure they are registered voters living in the district, the recall campaign against Giron achieved a stunningly high validity rate for their petitions. As we've said, regardless of how you feel about the recalls, you have to acknowledge that this prescreening of signers was a game-changing development–and should be adopted by every petition campaign going forward.

So what's going on here? Why is this paid gatherer telling people who live out of the district to lie about their residence? Why does he so casually explain that he only needs a 63% validity rate to "get paid for the whole job?"

There have been a number of anecdotal reports, from talk radio interviews in addition to tallies from recall opponents watching petition sites, that suggest the Hudak recall campaign is having trouble obtaining the signatures needed to reach the ballot. We of course have no way of assessing the truth of these reports, but it's true that the threshold for success in Senate District 19 is substantially higher than it was for the two recall elections this summer. We do know that at least at one point of the Hudak recall petition campaign, on-site validation of voters as residents of the district was taking place.

But what we're seeing here, a paid gatherer willing to lie and encourage lying, with a validity quota of only 63% to get paid, obviously without the screening intended to ensure the kind of high validity rates we saw in the Giron recall, is the best evidence yet that the Hudak recall campaign is desperate. The impression the campaign has given is that they are using on-site validation, and as a result there's already a broad presumption of a high validity rate for whatever signatures they do turn in. This campaign has tried even harder than previous efforts to pass itself off as "grassroots" and adherent to high standards. Eli Stokols' last report, documenting a pro-recall worker assaulting a recall opponent cameraman, already put a dent in that impression.

Today, we know a lot more. Now we know that they've got guys out on street corners ready to say anything to anybody to get them to sign the petition, even lie and facilitate fraud. And that means the aforementioned presumption of high validity, and with it the moral high ground the Hudak recall campaign claims, may now be dispensed with.

Reminder: DO NOT Take Legal Advice From Jon Caldara

Jon Caldara.

Jon Caldara.

As the Colorado Independent's Tessa Cheek reports:

Independence Institute President Jon Caldara says news that the attorney general is investigating former El Paso County Clerk staffer Alissa Vander Veen for voter fraud is not really surprising. For months he has been arguing and trying to demonstrate that a new law that put in place same-day registration in Colorado encourages troublemaking at the polls.

Caldara said he doesn’t remember ever speaking to Vander Veen or know anything about her case, but he added that he thinks the state’s Voter Access and Election Modernization Act “basically legalizes voter mischief.”

…Democrats, with the support of most of the state’s county clerks, passed the sweeping law last session, looking to increase voter turn out and up the efficiency of election administration for the digital age. Caldara joined Republican lawmakers in opposing the bill. He said so-called gypsy voters wold now be able to game the system by registering the day of the election wherever they wanted to vote in the state. Critics said the complaint was fear mongering and pointed out that state laws preventing voter fraud had not changed.

It was reported yesterday by the Colorado Independent that former El Paso County Clerk staffer Alissa Vander Veen is being investigated for violating rules for residency to vote in the Senate District 11 recall election in September. Vander Veen in fact used a VA loan to purchase a home in Pueblo last year, and such loans require the purchaser to use the home as their primary residence. Despite that, she reportedly affirmed an SD-11 address and voted in the recall election.

We'll be interested to see the results of that investigation, but for today, it's enough to be amazed by the endless chutzpah on display from another person under investigation for fraudulently voting in the SD-11 recall, the Independence Institute's director Jon Caldara.

Caldara, no stranger to the world of showy political statement, was determined to test the system. He posted a website encouraging “gypsy voting” and, although a longtime resident of Boulder County, he filed a transparently bogus registration in El Paso County and cast a blank ballot in the heated recall election there this summer.

“You know there’s an investigation on me as well,” Caldara said, deadpan. “That’s par for the course when there’s a complaint filed, the DA has to look at it. If the DA is conflicted, then he has to bump it up to the AG’s office… That’s not unusual, not necessarily nefarious.” [Pols emphasis]

Got that? Under investigation for felony vote fraud–"not unusual, not necessarily nefarious."

It is a truly absurd place we've arrived at in Colorado politics today, folks.

Credibility In Ashes: Zero Prosecutions Of The “Gessler 155″

Scott Gessler.

Scott Gessler.

The Grand Junction Sentinel's Charles Ashby published a story this weekend that, in a perfect world, would mean the end of higher political aspirations by Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler.

Since taking over the Secretary of State’s Office in 2011, Scott Gessler has loudly and repeatedly claimed that non-citizens were illegally voting in Colorado elections.

The Republican, who has long called for a new law requiring people to show proof of citizenship before voting, made national news when he went before Congress that year making a blockbuster statement that 16,270 non-citizens were registered to vote in Colorado and 5,000 of them actually had cast ballots in the 2010 state elections, when Democrat Michael Bennet narrowly defeated Republican Ken Buck for the U.S. Senate…

After years of critics demanding that Gessler forward names of suspected non-citizens whom he said were on the voter rolls, his office referred a list of 155 suspected non-citizen voters in July to 15 district attorneys across the state, recommending prosecution and issuing a strongly worded statement saying the list was proof the state’s election system is “vulnerable.”

A check by The Daily Sentinel with those district attorneys over the past two weeks, however, revealed that none of the referrals led to criminal prosecutions, though some still are under investigation. The analysis also showed that although some of the non-citizen voters did cast ballots in at least one election going as far back as 2004, the preponderance of the other voters actually were citizens who legally had the right to vote.

Gessler's quest to uncover evidence of "noncitizen voters" has consumed a tremendous amount of his and his staff's time since taking office in 2011. In April of 2011, Gessler testified before a congressional committee, claiming his "studies" had "found" that some 5,000 noncitizens had voted in Colorado in the 2010 elections. That number was quickly debunked by showing that over 30,000 Colorado residents had become citizens during the time period Gessler examined, easily accounting for his alarming figure. In 2012, Gessler sent letters to 4,000 voters he "suspected" of voting illegally. Westword reported that round of letters resulted in the cancellation of 88 registrations, few if any of which had ever actually voted. Most such errors were attributed to simple misunderstandings and errors made by clerks.

In Ashby's story this weekend, we read about a few more such anecdotal cases–a Pueblo County voter from Belgium who voted in 2006 as one example, who cancelled her registration after realizing she couldn't vote. Not only did the local district attorney find no intent to commit fraud, the statute of limitations was years expired. Of the 155 cases Gessler recommended for prosecution, a few cases remain under investigation, but there have been no prosecutions. We'll know in the next few weeks if any result.

Regardless of how those few remaining "cases" end up, you can't excuse the present state of this "investigation"–complete failure, a totally unjustified return on Gessler's investment of manpower and time–after the breathless and shocking claims Gessler originally made. Gessler originally asserted, without any "maybe," that 5,000 noncitizens voted in 2010. When you compare the things that Gessler said right after taking office with the reality three years later of zero prosecutions, it is obvious that Gessler simply has no credibility.

How this man retains any viability for another run at political office is truly baffling to us.

More People Voting: A Good Thing, Unless You’re Scott Gessler

Scott Gessler.

Scott Gessler.

A press release from Colorado Common Cause today celebrates the first statewide election carried out under House Bill 13-1303, the new Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act passed by the General Assembly this year:

Colorado’s voters are the big winners in the inauguration of a new modernized election law on Election Day. More than 267,000 more people voted in this year's Colorado's off-year election than in 2011. Voters noticed few differences from prior elections, but had more options and more services on Tuesday.

For the first time, every registered voter received a mail ballot, but with the option to mail it back, drop it off or vote in person. In the past, some elections were conducted by mail, others were not, creating confusion among voters as to whether their ballot would arrive in the mail. Last November, more than 70% of Colorado chose to vote by mail.

“The new election law is designed to make voting more accessible and simpler for voters. And it worked. Problems reported on our nonpartisan voter hotline on Election Day were much easier to solve this year. If someone had moved, needed to update their registration information or replace a ruined ballot, we could direct them to any voter service center in their county right up to Election Day. In the past, it was much more complicated and many people just gave up,” said Elena Nunez, executive director of Colorado Common Cause.

The Denver Post's Joey Bunch has some analysis of this year's strong turnout, which can be fairly attributed to polarizing ballot measures in addition to the state's accommodating new voting laws:

What drove the increase? A lot of things. Some of it could be attributed to almost 212,000 more registered voters since 2011 — from 3,350,219 two years ago to 3,562,184 on Tuesday. Colorado legislators this year also made mail-balloting the law, rather than just an option. The state has allowed voters to chose to get a ballot mailed to them for quite awhile, and in the general election last year 74 percent chose to do so. This year, that number grew to 100 percent of those, plus many more who had been deemed “inactive” for not voting in recent elections. Getting a ballot without leaving home likely pulled many of them still living in the state back into the fold.

But don't tell any of that to Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler, House Bill 1303's most ardent opponent.

Minutes before the polls closed Tuesday night, Gessler laid out to me all the things his office had done to get the new law working in time, with much more to do before next year’s much larger general election. He sent staff to about 30 of the state’s 64 counties to help them with procedures, technology and security, so Gessler said he wasn’t surprised the law worked without many Election Day hitches. “From a policy standpoint, it’s been disastrous,” Gessler said. “From a technology standpoint, it’s also a disaster.” [Pols emphasis]

Now folks, what do you suppose the "disaster" was? Was it a "disaster" that so many more people voted? That Gessler's office had to actually do some work to implement the new law? We assume the "disaster" wasn't Amendment 66's lopsided defeat, because that wouldn't make sense either coming from a Republican. Ordinarily, you would assume that pronouncing something a "disaster" means you have, you know, evidence to back that up. But when the facts don't validate his scare tactics, Gessler sticks to the script.

Three years ago, it was shocking. Today, we know it's just how Gessler operates.​

Loose Ballots? Just send them back, voter vigilantes.

Colorado Peak Politics, your source for hysterical news reports about all manner of possible voter fraud which could conceivably happen someday, wants you to know that Todd Shepherd has loose ballots accumulating in his apartment complex foyer. Mr. Shepherd was so upset about this that he went on a mission to two other apartment buildings with ballots lying around.  And he found them, and breathlessly reported on them on CPP. "Who knows what other violations are out there?" CPP asks.

 

Mr. Shepherd, just so you know, it is illegal to tamper with other people's mail. This includes opening, destroying, and damaging mail. Probably videotaping other people's mail, and posting it on youtube would be considered mail tampering, as well.

While we're talking criminal penalties, you may want to be aware that forging a signature on a ballot not your own (i.e., impersonating a voter) is a felony.  And the County Clerks do have visual recognition software which checks voter signatures. So your concerns about Colorado's all mail ballot system causing voter fraud through loose ballots are not justified.

What to do if your apartment foyer is infested with "loose ballots":

1. Contact the apartment manager and ask if the ballots can be forwarded to a tenant.

2. If you are an apartment manager or landlord of a building, and you know that the tenant to whom a ballot is addressed has moved, but you do not have a forwarding address,  the civic-minded responsible thing to do is not  to rummage through their mail, videotape it, and post it on youtube and a right wing website.

3.  The  correct response to loose ballots with no forwarding address is to write "MOVED – NO LONGER AT THIS ADDRESS" on the ballot, and then put it back in the outgoing mail.

4. When the County Election Clerk receives these ballots, the voter will be inactivated. Per Pueblo Clerk Gilbert Ortiz, around 3800, or 4% of the county electorate, was "inactivated undeliverable."

This is, of course, an absurd story. It is, however, part of a continuing push to discredit Colorado's HB1303, the Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act. Jon Keyser shared his fake "double ballots" story on CPP. Every time a "mail ballot fraud in Colorado" story is debunked, two more pop up in right wing media.

Colorado is considered to be a model of good voter access and reliability. Colorado's voter turnout of 71%  was third in the nation in the all mail-ballot 2012 election.  So, of course, too many people are voting, and this is suspect..

Moral: If you see a loose ballot, don't videotape it.  Get it to the voter, or get it inactivated. 

Miniscule Vote Fraud Allegations From Recalls

crimedoesnotpay

Noted briefly by the Colorado Springs Independent's J. Adrian Stanley, with an amusing twist:

Jon Caldara's ballot was the most famous to be forwarded to the 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office — because of suspected voter fraud — following the Sen. John Morse recall. 

Also among those whose ballots were forwarded: my husband's…

Stanley reports that her husband's ballot was rejected due to inconsistencies in with the signature compared to others on file. The case was referred to the El Paso County District Attorney's office, who contacted them and ultimately accepted the explanation that the ballot was legitimately cast.

More interesting than this reporter's husband's ballot is this relayed detail from the El Paso County Clerk's office: of the 17,943 ballots cast in the Senate District 11 recall election last month, only 18 ballots have been referred to prosecutors for further investigation, presumably including Independence Institute President Jon Caldara's openly fraudulent "civil disobedience" ballot. The flood of Caldara-style "gypsy voters" never materialized–and even if they had, the clerk has a ready means of enforcement, as demonstrated by the DA's office chasing down voters. Caldara may yet supply a much higher profile example of the stiff consequences of election fraud.

It's simple: the House Bill 1303 election system, despite all the dire warnings and felonious "stunts," does work.