Opposing The Recall Fix Bill Is Stupid–Unless…

Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert

Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz.

A guest opinion piece from Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert "Bo" Ortiz makes the case for passing Senate Bill 14-158, which would attempt to fix conflicts between statutory election law and century-old constitutional recall provisions. Last year, those arcane William Jennings Bryan-era recall provisions were invoked to successfully halt the delivery of mail ballots in the recall elections of John Morse and Angela Giron. Given the very small margin in Morse's SD-11 recall defeat, this court decision may well have been decisive:

The ability to circulate petitions and recall elected officials is a constitutional right. But recall elections are much more difficult than the regularly scheduled elections. They typically are more emotional and controversial. Fewer people vote in recalls so they tend to be less representative, and they are expensive for local governments.

County clerks deal with recall elections periodically, more commonly for local officials such as city council members or school board directors. In Colorado last year, we held two recall elections for state legislators — the first time in the history of our state. I supervised one of those recall elections, in which 36 percent of eligible voters participated and cost Pueblo County $270,000.

The participation rate would have no doubt been higher and the cost less burdensome had we been able to mail ballots to all registered voters. [Pols emphasis] But a lawsuit by the Libertarian Party revealed 100-year-old constitutional language that candidates have until 15 days before the election to petition onto the ballot, not leaving enough time to print, mail and return ballots. This petition timeline is not in place for any other type of election. It is an even more burdensome timeline for small, rural counties with fewer resources.

As the GOP-aligned "news" site Colorado Observer reports, Republcians and recall organizers aren't happy:

Victor Head, who ran the successful recall against former state Sen. Angela Giron (D-Pueblo), said he saw the bill as a “retaliatory sort of move.”

“I think it’s just spiteful,” said Head, who’s now running for Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder. “They really don’t care about public opinion any more. They’ve proven that over and over…”

“You can’t just change the meaning of things. Words have meaning. Election Day is Election Day,” said Head. “You can’t just say, ‘Well, Election Day is when mail-in ballots go out.’ That’s what they’re saying. I have a feeling that’s going to cause more problems with more statutes.”

The fact is, the 100-year old constitutional provisions governing recalls never anticipated the modernization election system that Coloradans take for granted today. Voters don't all gather on one Tuesday to cast their ballots at polling places anymore–mail ballots are accepted by the public and popular for voting in this state, and that means what they envisioned in 1912 to be "Election Day" really does encompass a longer period than one day.

The becomes critical when you understand that the lawsuit that halted the delivery of mail ballots did not expressly prohibit them; it made mail ballots effectively impossible to deliver and be returned in time. The opposition to Senate Bill 158 is opposition to a bill to protect access for voters, and to set deadlines that don't conflict with the constitution, while still allowing for timely recall elections using the voting method voters expect.

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Andrew Bateman: Check your precinct number – there are errors

Andrew Bateman put this in the Thursday Open Thread. I think that it's important information -so I am putting it out as a diary. The average voter would probably would not be concerned with this- it's mainly for campaign volunteers who work with the voter database.

The database is VAN on the Dem side. I don't know which database the Republican party uses. But it's probably worth the time for  "average voters"  to take a quick look for on the Secretary of State voter registration site, just to see if your precinct and ward info is correct, and correct anything needing correcting on your own voter registration.

Here's Andrew's post:

Hey, everybody. I am not allowed to post a diary since I am still on "COPolsProbation" (I just joined yesterday), but there is some information that really needs to be disseminated quickly. 

 

While reviewing data in my City Council Ward in Aurora, I noticed a error in the voter file (Secretary of State voter file via VoteBuilder) that had an entire precinct, several hundred voters, listed in the wrong Ward. This mistake has been in place since the redistricting. This is not just a VAN issue. The SOS has it wrong. 

I have contacted all the relevent officials (City Clerk / County Clerk / SOS) and they will be fixing this particular problem. But if it can happen here, it can happen anywhere. 

So, Candidates and Campaigns, check your voter file for accuracy. If mistakes like this one are found after the caucus/assembly process is complete, it could cause any number of problems for nominated candidates. I found the issue by comparing the SOS data against the official city districting maps from their planning and development office. 

I think that County Commission, City, and special districts are the most likely to be effected by this. But everyone should probably double check, just to be safe. 

And if someone wants to go ahead and put this out there in diary format, since I can't, so that people will actually read it, that would be a good thing. 

-Andrew Bateman

 

- See more at: http://coloradopols.com/diary/55186/thursday-open-thread-57#sthash.GxhrTob8.dpuf

 

Head Games – Voting Rights 3, Head 0

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Victor Head, "Pueblo Plumber", recall proponent, and County Clerk candidate, has been lying again, and digging through trash for ballots to make the case that only he can prevent election fraud.  

HB1128 , Reduce Voter Identity Theft

In the State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee of the Colorado legislature, on February 12, Head testified on behalf of HB1128, a thinly-disguised "voter ID" bill. Szabo and Harvey were the sponsors. The bill, thankfully, is parked in the State committee, and unlikely to come out of it.

The facts were not with this bill. There is not, and never has been, a problem of "voter identity theft" in Colorado. Over the last 10 years, there have been no instances of someone voting under an assumed name. Yet, Head, with an eye on the Clerk position supervising elections in Pueblo, wants voters to believe that he  has expertise in this area, and will help protect us from the dreaded (but nonexistent) problem of voter identity theft.

In order to create a problem only he can solve, Victor Head lied again  in HB1128  hearing testimony.  He told Representative Salazar that signature cards weren't used in Pueblo County when Pueblans began voting in the Recall election. This is demonstrably not true.

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Marilyn Marks: She’s Everywhere You Want To Be

Marilyn Marks.

Marilyn Marks.

A name that keeps popping up in coverage of debate over a local elections bill in the Colorado legislature is former Aspen mayoral candidate Marilyn Marks, who increasingly seems to be a central player in GOP efforts to "crack down" on supposed "vote fraud." As the Colorado Springs Gazette's Megan Schrader reported Monday evening:

One of the state's most tenacious and controversial poll watchers – Marilyn Marks – sat on the Senate floor during debate Monday in opposition to HB1164. Marks and her advocacy group The Citizen Center have been in the middle of controversies in Pueblo County and in Broomfield during election results tabulation and recounting.

Ulibarri wouldn't say whether the change in law was in response to conflicts with Marks, but he did say it was inappropriate for Marks – a lobbyist in all but official registration – to be sitting with Republicans helping to draft amendments.

"I wish I were a lobbyist because then someone would be paying me for what I'm doing," Marks said, adding she was invited to the Senate floor by several lawmakers.

"I was responding to their invitation," she said.

FOX 31's Eli Stokols adds:

Marilyn Marks, the Aspen activist known for fighting mail ballots — her lawsuit successfully challenging the election law Democrats passed last year to require that all voters receive mail ballots resulted in mail ballots being tossed out during two recall elections last September — may have been a driving force behind the sudden GOP opposition to the proposal.

Marks was seated on the Senate floor during Monday morning’s debate, as a guest of one of the Republican lawmakers.

Sen. Jessie Ulibarri's concern about Mark's murky status while a "guest" on the Senate floor Monday appears to have sound basis in Senate rules, which read thusly:

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Arvada Council’s Secret Ballots are Challenged

In the morning hours of Friday, January 10, 2014, Arvada Mayor Marc Williams presided over a final round of secret ballots that selected Jerry Marks for the district one council vacancy by a 5-to-1 vote. This is the council vacancy that occurred as the result of Rachael Zenzinger’s resignation to take the open state senate seat that arose from Evie Hudak’s resignation — Zenzinger had just been reelected to a second four-year term on the city council in November 2013.

Five finalists had been chosen previously by the remaining six council members from a total of sixteen applicants for the position at another Friday morning meeting held on January 3, 2014.

Mr. Marks was selected on the fourth round of secret ballots. There was not any discussion among the six council members between the secret ballots. After that fourth round the balloting stopped; a majority had voted for one individual.

This procedure had consequential and substantive effects — some applicants were eliminated, others advanced by these secret ballots.

Then Mayor Williams sought to make the results of the secret ballots ‘official’ with an ‘official’ resolution appointing Jerry Marks to the district one seat — that passed 6-to-0.

This procedure is a violation of the Colorado Open Meetings law — that seems clear from my reading of the statute. Colorado Revised Statutes 24-6-402 prohibits the casting of secret ballots:

(IV ) Neither a state nor a local public body may adopt any proposed policy, position, resolution, rule, or regulation or take formal action by secret ballot unless otherwise authorized in accordance with the provisions of this subparagraph (IV).

Part of the law allows a secret ballot to elect “leadership” of a “state or local public body” — that means, for instance, the council selecting from amongst its members the mayor pro tempore, or in the case of the Jeffco school board the ‘election’ of who will be the chairperson from among the five members. It certainly does not mean that a replacement representative of the people can be done secretly.

But that is exactly what happened in this case. The law states: For purposes of this subparagraph (IV), “secret ballot” means a vote cast in such a way that the identity of the person voting or the position taken in such vote is withheld from the public.

Thus on Friday morning, January 10, 2014, my council representative was chosen by people who do not even live in my district and they did this choosing secretly. What could be more antithetical to the very principles of representative democracy in our republican form of government?

So, good Arvada citizen and colleague of mine Russell Weisfield, who is also a district one resident, has step forward in a courageous move and challenged this city council action by filing a lawsuit to reverse the results of the secret balloting. (By the way neither Russell nor I had applied for this council vacancy position.)

Russell and I were proactive on this matter from the beginning; before Mr. Marks was sworn-in, we sent a letter to the mayor and council asking that this process be stopped because of Open Meetings laws problems.

The importance of this issue cannot be overstated. The selection to fill a vacancy on the elected city council — in other words a replacement for the peoples’s democratically elected choice — must not be done with the slightest hint of secrecy. As citizens of this city and residents of this district, we have a right to know why our representative was selected, why she or he was better than or more qualified than any of the other applicants. Acting in our stead as voters, we have a right to know why council members who do not even live in our district picked one candidate over another.

How are we to hold our elected government accountable if we are kept from even knowing why they make critical and important decisions that affect our lives in this city?

This lawsuit is about the bedrock principle of the republic — we, the people, are sovereign. When there is a vacancy in an elected office, we, the people, must know and must see how and why a temporary successor is appointed to act on our behalf; otherwise we have government by an elite that is not answerable to us.

It is regrettable that a lawsuit is necessary; it is too bad that we have an arrogant and indifferent city council in Arvada that often belittles and mocks citizens who try in good faith to be involved in this community, but who might just happen to have a different point of view.

CO Campaign Finance Law Struck Down

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Former Rep. Kathleen Curry.

Former Rep. Kathleen Curry.

The Coloradoan and the Herald reported last week that the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of La Plata County Commissioner Joelle Riddle and, by extension, former State Representative Kathleen Curry of Gunnison in their suit challenging Colorado's campaign finance limits. 

In 2010, Curry ran a write-in campaign as an independent candidate. The fact that she was having to run as a write in is yet another form of discrimination against independent candidates, but that's a separate issue. 

The case involved Colorado's limit of individual contributions of $200 per election. If that number seems wrong to you, it's because that number raises to $400 if you are running as a Democrat or Republican, since you might have a primary, (but probably won't). 

In the 2010 election, despite running as a write in, Curry lost by only 359 votes. If she had been able to raise double the money, like each of her opponents, she certainly could have won. 

In the review of the case, 590 State House and Senate candidates from the Dem and GOP parties were examined and it was determined that only 63 of them had actually faced a primary challenge. Yet, all of them had been allowed to collect twice as much per individual donor and to use all of that money during months immediately before the general election. 

Colorado will now be forced to rethink it's campaign finance laws. One proposal is to copy the federal law and require separate accounts for primary and general election funds, and prohibit primary funds from being spent after the primary election date. Another option is to simply drop the charade of primary vs general funds and just let all candidates collect up to $400 regardless of party affiliation. Either way, Colorado election law is a little bit more fair today.  

None Dare Call It “Kingwashing”

UPDATE: A blast from the past–from the May 9, 1992 edition of the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News, here is a far less reverent state Rep. Mike Coffman when it came to honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As written by John Sanko and Fawn Germer in their recap of "Unforgettable Moments of the '92 Legislative Session."

The "He's Got Some Nerve" Award

This goes to Rep. Mike Coffman, who missed all but a week of the 1991 session to serve in the gulf war. But when Rep. Wilma Webb was excused for Martin Luther King Day and Democrats wanted the House to "lay over" the vote on a bill she supported, Coffman argued against it. Although bills routinely are laid over, Coffman said Webb should have showed up if she wanted to vote. [Pols emphasis]

That was then, folks, and this is now–original post follows.

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baumgardnermarade1
Photo via Facebook

As the Denver Post's Lynn Bartels cheerily reports:

This year’s MLK parade featured an unprecedented number of Republicans, including Congressman Mike Coffman and state Sen. Greg Brophy, as the Colorado Republican Party continues its outreach to minorities. [Pols emphasis]

Party chairman Ryan Call said the GOP worked with American Conservatives of Color and had a registration booth at Civic Center Park and participated in a honk-and-wave.

“We’re building on what we did last year,” he said. “We have quite a number of Republicans that are marching in support of Martin Luther King day and demonstrating the commitment the Republican Party has for engagement within our community.”

Yesterday, GOP Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman issued this statement:

“Martin Luther King, Jr. blessed our country and the entire world with his life’s work to secure civil rights for all. It is fitting to honor the life of this great American and to recognize his legacy of promoting the self-evident truth that all people are created equal.” 

We've posted a few more photos from Republican lawmakers who marched in the Martin Luther King, Jr. parade in Denver yesterday after the jump. Bartels' story has a photo supplied by Rep. Mike Coffman, grinning widely at the parade with Democratic Sen. Mark Udall and Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Since the parade yesterday, and especially in the wake of Bartels' glowing write-up of "unprecedented" GOP participation, we've heard a variety of opinions, ranging from open contempt for what's perceived to be Republican hypocrisy and media whitewash, to honest gratitude for anyone who wishes to march in honor of Dr. King's work and legacy in American history. With that said, the history of the holiday honoring Dr. King and Republicans is not without controversy. President Ronald Reagan himself opposed the federal holiday, relenting only after it passed Congress by a veto-proof margin. A large body of conservative historiography seeks to undermine Dr. King's legacy, and the civil rights movement generally.

In fact, based on just about everything we learned in college, there's a huge gap between the ideology of Republicans who marched in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King yesterday, and the views of Dr. King. Rather than questioning the premise of this story, or asking a man like 2014 U.S. Senate also-ran Randy Baumgardner to comment on issues for which he (to put it charitably) is not qualified, we would like to know if there are any Republicans willing to endorse these statements by the same Dr. King they marched in honor of yesterday:

-When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

-A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

-We are prone to judge success by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobiles, rather than by the quality of our service and relationship to humanity — thus capitalism can lead to a practical materialism that is as pernicious as the materialism taught by communism.

-We have deluded ourselves into believing the myth that capitalism grew and prospered out of the Protestant ethic of hard work and sacrifices. The fact is that capitalism was built on the exploitation of black slaves and continues to thrive on the exploitation of the poor, both black and white, both here and abroad…the way to end poverty is to end the exploitation of the poor. Insure them a fair share of the government’s services and the nation’s resources. We must recognize that the problems of neither racial nor economic justice can be solved without a radical redistribution of political and economic power.

-Yes, before the victory is won, some will be misunderstood. Some will be dismissed as dangerous rabble-rousers and agitators. Some will be called reds and Communists merely because they believe in economic justice and the brotherhood of man. But we shall overcome.

And perhaps our favorite:

-When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative.

With that, we'll turn this discussion over to our readers. Should Republicans march in parades honoring Dr. King without reconciling their politics with the man they claim to be honoring? What would Dr. King think of, for example, Rep. Coffman's work to roll back federal voting rights law protecting bilingual ballots? Has enough time passed since the civil rights era that Dr. King can now serve as a politically generic feel-good icon for all sides? Have we got it all wrong about Republicans and their legitimate admiration for Dr. King?

Either way, we haven't found the term "Kingwashing" in use elsewhere. We'd like credit if that becomes a thing.

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Scott Gessler’s Blame Games Debunked Yet Again

Scott Gessler.

Scott Gessler.

An excellent story in today's Durango Herald from reporter Joe Hanel demolishes recent claims from Secretary of State Scott Gessler that last year's election modernization bill, House Bill 1303, has pushed his office's budget into the red.

The truth? Gessler just doesn't manage money very well.

Gessler’s office was running a $7 million surplus – so large it violated the law – in June 2012. A year later, it had fallen to less than $2 million, and now legislators are worried his budget will need extra money to keep it afloat.

Most of the shortfall traces back to Gessler’s cuts to business filing fees, according to budget numbers the Herald obtained through the Colorado Open Records Act. He also spent money on website upgrades to make it easier to register a business in Colorado.

Gessler, a Republican, is running for governor, and he touts his cuts to business fees on the campaign trail. But under the Capitol dome, he places blame for his collapsing budget on House Bill 1303, a mail-voting bill that Democrats passed last spring. [Pols emphasis]

“The issue basically with the budget is 1303’s been a budget-buster. It’s blown our budget out of the water,” Gessler said at a Dec. 19 oversight hearing at the Legislature…

As Hanel explains and an astute reader of our blog laid out earlier this month, Secretary of State Gessler has repeatedly cut the fees paid by businesses other entities to register with the state, including "holidays" where the fees were basically eliminated for months at a time. This was done in part to reduce the Secretary of State's then very large budget surplus to the level allowed by law. Costs of modernizing the election system after House Bill 1303 were incurred, Hanel reports, but only after Gessler's office had lost millions of dollars in revenue from reduced fees on businesses.

As a Republican candidate for governor in 2014, Gessler has used these cuts–which he was partly obligated to make–as proof of his pro-business credentials. In hindsight, though, it looks like Gessler cut fees much too aggressively, leaving him with no cushion to pay for implementing an election modernization bill authored by county clerks from both parties. And what about all the money spent unsuccessfully defending Gessler from last year's ethics complaint?

It's not unreasonable to be, you know, less sympathetic to Gessler's budget problems with all this in mind.

Caldara Gloats About His Voter Fraud in DP Editorial

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Article

Jon Caldara, the infamous head of the Independence Institute, had an editorial printed in Colorado's paper of record yesterday telling the people of the state that they can now legally voter anywhere in the state that they want, and that the winner of elections going forward will be the campaign with the most buses. His evidence: "How do we know this? Well, because I'm not going to jail."

As this site has covered on multiple occasions, the law passed last year to expand voter access does not, in any way, allow voters to vote wherever they please, and numerous Republican elected officials have said as much, too. But that means nothing to Caldara, who has continued his "neener, neener" parade across newspapers and talk radio since the Colorado attorney general's office decided not to file charges against him. 

In the editorial, Caldara goes even farther, announcing an accelerated campaign to teach all Colorado voters how to legally vote in districts where they do not live. 

The question remains about how the 2014 legislature intends to deal with this issue, if at all. 

Warrant Issued In SD-11 Recall Petition Fraud Case

Back in July, we discussed a complaint from the campaign defending then-Senate President John Morse alleging that some number of recall petition signatures, which were obtained largely by paid signature gatherers, were fraudulent (see our post, Recall Fraud: The Curious Case of Twila Sue Peach).

Today, KKTV Channel 11 in Colorado Springs reports:

A man is accused of forging signatures on petitions asking for the recall of Colorado Senator John Morse…

The DA's warrant alleges that [Nickolas] Robinson committed 13 counts of forgery, seven counts of perjury and 13 counts of attempt to influence a public servant in May of 2013.

We'll update with further details once they are reported, but it appears that Morse's campaign was right.

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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