Pennies for Your Thoughts: El Paso County Ballots Scrap Signature Cover

Republican Wayne Williams is the current Clerk and Recorder in El Paso County, which puts him in charge of elections and voting in one of the largest counties in Colorado. Williams is also running for Secretary of State to replace Scott Gessler, and if his decisions in El Paso County are any indication, Williams' approach to mail ballots should make you nervous.

All mail ballots must be signed on the back of the envelope in order to be counted as official votes, and El Paso County is no exception to that rule. But El Paso County is perhaps the only large county in Colorado to have eliminated the voter signature cover on the envelope, which allows anyone who handles the envelope to see whose ballot is in their hands (provided they can read the signature). You can see the El Paso County ballot and envelope in the image below; after the jump is a comparison ballot/envelope from Denver, with the signature cover intact.

From what we understand, Williams instructed his office to eliminate the tab that covers the signature on the envelope as a cost-cutting measure. We can't imagine this decision actually saved a lot of money, but even if it did, was it really worth the savings if it jeopardized the secrecy of mail ballots in El Paso County?

El Paso County Ballot

El Paso County mail ballot sans signature cover.

 

 

 

 

 

(more…)

Rocky Mountain Heist–So Bad It’s…Well, See For Yourself

UPDATE: Luis Toro of Colorado Ethics Watch makes an astute point:

—–

citizensunited

The controversial right-wing filmmaking crew Citizens United released their much-anticipated movie about the "Democratic takeover" of Colorado titled Rocky Mountain Heist last week, now available on DVD as well as streaming free on conservative website Newsmax.com. Overall, the video appears to be a overheated version of Adam Schrager's Blueprint: How the Democrats Won Colorado, with some misleading anecdotes backdropped against the effective (and perfectly legal) Democratic infrastructure generally given credit for turning Colorado blue for the past decade.

Rocky Mountain Heist draws viewers in with references to a memo, purportedly from the Colorado Democracy Alliance in 2006, that refers to a campaign to "educate the idiots"–obviously an incendiary choice of words for any election strategy document. What Citizens United doesn't mention is that the "educate the idiots" memo was an obvious forgery, using bizarre language and bad grammar that nobody on the Democratic side could even recognize.

And that's just the beginning. The movie references the case of Jack Phillips, the bakery owner who was found to be in violation of the state's public accommodation law, claiming Phillips "faced jail time" for his refusal to bake a cake for a gay wedding. The truth is, the Colorado General Assembly repealed the criminal penalties for public accommodation in 2013, the same year they passed the civil unions bill. To imply in the fall of 2014 that refusing to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple in Colorado could result in jail time is just one example of the way this movie blatantly misleads its audience.

Seth Masket, a DU professor, relates his experience of being duped into an interview for Rocky Mountain Heist in a Washington Post blog last week:

At one point in the film, I claim the following:

Latinos have not only been increasing in their potential to vote, but they’ve been voting increasingly Democratic over the last 10 years in Colorado.

By itself, this is not a particularly controversial statement. It is empirically verifiable that the number of Latino voters has increased substantially in Colorado over the past decade and that those voters are more likely to vote Democratic than they used to be. But this quote is inserted in between some footage purportedly showing that Democrats are trying to encourage illegal immigration, an insinuation by Tom Tancredo that the Obama administration is essentially recruiting Democratic voters via undocumented Mexican immigration, and a paean by Michelle Malkin to her Filipino parents who “immigrated here legally. It wasn’t easy. They learned English, they learned our history, they followed our rules.”

So now my uncontroversial quote is helping to legitimize an argument that undocumented immigrants from Mexico are invading our country, affecting our elections and undermining our culture.

For us, perhaps the most egregious lie in the whole film–the one that proves Citizens United is purposefully out to mislead you–is this frame:

udalltomfreespeech

This is the point late in the film where Citizens United declares their court case invalidating campaign finance laws is the reason why the "gun control revolt" in Colorado was successful–enough that "Sen. Udall" is proposing to "roll back free speech rights across the country."

But if you look closely, you can see they're not even attacking the right Sen. Udall.

tomudall

Bottom line: since the release of Rocky Mountain Heist, we've honestly been surprised by how little attention it's received in the mainstream press, and how little buzz among voters on either side of the political spectrum it seems to be generating. That's partly because the material is really quite weak, relying more on breathless reporting of uncontroversial politics than findings of real nefarious fact. And at key moments, the whole production is pasted together with rank deceptions like what you see above: maybe enough fool the most uncritical and most committed partisan Republicans, but laughable to anyone who stops even for a moment to think about what they're being presented with. As a tool for persuading undecided voters, Rocky Mountain Heist is just plain bunk.

Given the splash they made with the court battle just to set up shop in Colorado, we expected better.

Fear and Lies: Controversy Erupts Over False RGA TV Spot

UPDATE: 9NEWS' Brandon Rittiman says the station has not refused the ad, but it isn't running there:

Republican-Governors-Association-RGA-LogoTo be clear, our original report was based on an update to the Denver Post's story:

UPDATE: Channel 9 is not airing the ad in its current form, Hickenlooper campaign says.

Which, to be fair, doesn't explicitly say 9NEWS pulled the ad–so we regret any presumption. This story is still reportedly developing, we'll update.

—–

FOX 31's Eli Stokols:

Thinking it was set to fire a potential kill shot in Colorado’s governor’s race, the Republican Governors Association instead shot a blank.

With eight days of voting left, the Republican Governors Association went back on Colorado’s airwaves with a hard-hitting ad featuring the father of a girl who was murdered in 1993 by Nathan Dunlap, the death row inmate who Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper granted a reprieve to last May.

Unfortunately, a glaring factual error in the ad may lead Colorado television stations to pull the spot from the airwaves.

The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reports via Gov. John Hickenlooper's campaign that 9NEWS is refusing to air the ad in question, and further explains the enormous factual error behind their decision:

The last frame of the ad states: “Now John Hickenlooper is threatening a ‘full clemency’ for Nathan Dunlap that could set him free.” The ad cites an Aug. 25 story in The Denver Post, but the article never mentions the governor setting Dunlap free. And the governor’s attorneys said that’s not possible.

“The statement in the ad is flagrantly false, misleading and factually inaccurate,” Hickenlooper’s attorneys said in their cease-and-desist letters…

“The temporary reprieve of the governor’s executive order leaves only two possible outcomes with respect to Mr. Dunlap’s sentence, neither of which includes setting him free: (1) full clemency with life in prison and no possiblity for parole or (2) execution,” the attorneys wrote.

Hickenlooper's granting of an indefinite reprieve to "Chuck E. Cheese Killer" Nathan Dunlap was an act that pleased his Democratic base, and it's important to keep this in mind when talking about the politics of that decision. But it has also generated arguably the harshest attacks on Hickenlooper from his political opponents, foremost now from opponent Bob Beauprez. The expenditure of political capital in that decision is part of why Hickenlooper's once-stellar approval ratings have been brought to earth in the last couple of years. These are political realities.

With that said, this ad is plainly, ridiculously false, and we agree it should not air in its present form. Bartels reports that the Republican Governors Association responded to the cease and desist letter with (we are not making this up) Merriam-Webster dictionary's definition of "clemency," as if that's in any way relevant or binding. Given the nature of his crimes, there is no plausible scenario we can imagine in which Nathan Dunlap will ever see the outside of a prison. At no point before this ad has anyone seriously suggested that Hickenlooper might set Dunlap free, this has always to our knowledge been a debate about execution versus life imprisonment. Reasonable people can disagree about the efficacy and morality of the death penalty, but that's not what's happening here. Because this discussion is not based on the facts.

Like the Beauprez campaign's willful abuse of Tom Clements' death, or Cory Gardner falsely invoking Ebola and ISIS against Mark Udall, the scare tactics we're seeing as the 2014 campaign comes to a close are marked with something else: pervasive dishonesty. It's tough to say objectively if it's worse this election than in prior years, but it feels that way today.

Colorado “Unites In Orange”–Dick Cheney’s Back In Town

cheneyorange

Trish and Ken Green, your brave hosts.

Trish and Ken Green, your brave hosts.

Former Vice President "Deadeye" Dick Cheney is in town tonight hosting a fundraiser for Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez at the swanky Cherry Hills Village home of Trish and Ken Green. Here's the invite, admission a bargain at $1,000 per couple to start:

unnamed

We recognize that this is the time in a political campaign when it's best to look forward, not backwards, but let's face it–the Bush administration was Bob Beauprez's halcyon days of yore. So what's old is new again–much like Bob Beauprez himself!

One other issue that might make a Cheney/Beauprez fundraiser a bit uncomfortable is the fact that both Cheney and Beauprez received multiple draft deferments during the Vietnam war. Back in 2006, with the Iraq war raging, the issue of Beauprez's draft dodging did come up, as it did for Cheney while he was sending the next generation off to fight the "war on terror." Dodging the draft may not be quite the issue is was back in 2006, but then again, we don't see Dick Cheney every day either.

Being within the city limits of Cherry Hills Village, we assume there won't be any firearms discharges–and for an event featuring the only Vice President in history to have shot a hunting partner and then received an apology from the man he shot, that's good for the host's insurance coverage. Of course, they might tell Cheney all the orange being worn tonight is for the Broncos, but there are much more practical reasons.

NBC/Marist: Gardner 46%, Udall 45%, Hickenlooper Up 5

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

Mark Udall, Cory Gardner.

New polling from NBC/Marist College shows…you guessed it, a continuing nail-biter in Colorado's U.S. Senate race:

In the race for U.S. Senate in Colorado, Republican Cory Gardner, 46%, and Democratic incumbent Mark Udall, 45%, are in a virtual tie among likely voters including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate or have voted early. Five percent of Colorado likely voters are undecided, and 2% of those with a candidate preference say they might vote differently. Among likely voters in NBC News/Marist’s September poll, Gardner trailed Udall by 6 percentage points.

Independents likely to vote and gender play a role in how the race has changed. Udall’s once 15 point lead among independents has shrunk to just 3 points. And, the gender gap has widened with men as the driving force behind the gains for Gardner. He now leads Udall among men by 15 points, up from 5 points.

Looking at the governor’s race in Colorado, Democratic incumbent John Hickenlooper, 46%, is ahead of GOP challenger Bob Beauprez, 41%, by 5 points among Colorado likely voters including those who are undecided yet leaning toward a candidate and those who have already voted. Six percent are undecided, and 6% say they may vote differently.

“To seal up the potential crack in the Democratic firewall for the U.S. Senate, Udall needs a big ground game,” says Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, Director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “He trails among those who have already voted by 12 points.”

Most all of the numbers in this poll have tightened from the last NBC/Marist poll in early September, which showed Sen. Mark Udall with a 6-point lead. While Udall's lead has shrunk to the same statistical dead heat most other polling in this race shows, Gov. John Hickenlooper's lead over Republican challenger Bob Beauprez has grown slightly compared to early September's Marist/NBC poll. In both cases, the movement is consistent with what we're seeing in most recent polling.

It's interesting to note that Marist shows a large lead for Republican Cory Gardner among those who have already voted–an important question to ask in our newly 100% mail ballot state. Given the early lead Republicans have posted in ballot returns, that makes sense–and this poll points the path to victory for Democrats in the ground game to play out over the next eight days.

Because, and we know you're sick of hearing it, there's only one "polling sample" that matters.

The Absentee Treasurer

Sen. Gail Schwartz

Sen. Gail Schwartz

(Promoted by Colorado Pols. Check out Your Choice Colorado for more on the statewide downballot races.)

For the past eight years, I have served in the Colorado State Senate. I have been privileged to work with Republicans and Democrats, two Governors and fellow legislators, and urban and rural citizens to develop Colorado solutions to issues facing our state.

As Chair of the legislative Capital Development Committee, I worked on many pieces of legislation to fund our state’s capital projects. Two bills in particular addressed the critical capital needs of education. With support of former Treasurer Kennedy, we created the BEST program which invested over $1B in rural schools; and secondly, using oil and gas revenues, we funded $230M for construction on college campuses. Neither program increased state taxes.

Treasurer Stapleton  has not pursued similar opportunities for education or for our rural communities, and said “no” when invited to help develop specific programs to invest in rural infrastructure.

Now, public records from the Treasurer’s calendar and key code records, reveal that he is only in his office about 11 days per month. I have had numerous meetings in the treasure's office during each of the last several years, only to find his personal office was not only empty, but dark.

The Treasurer is responsible, more than any other position in the state, for managing and accounting for the citizen's tax dollars. A full-time Treasurer would mean that we could look at creative, “out-of-the-box” ways to invest in rural Colorado and save taxpayers money, beginning with updating and upgrading our infrastructure by using public/private partnerships.

If Colorado had a Treasurer who was actually working in the Capitol, who actually worked with the State Legislature, and who spent time thinking about our whole State, Colorado would be much better served.

Coloradans deserve a full-time Treasurer who will show up for work, look out for our entire state, and take on our state’s fiscal challenges. Colorado would be better off with the energy and commitment of Betsy Markey. It’s time to turn the lights back on in the Colorado's Treasurer's office!

Colorado’s First Spanish-Language Congressional Debate on Thursday

Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican — or whether or not you even speak Spanish — you've got to admit that this is pretty cool: On Thursday, Oct. 30, Republican Rep. Mike Coffman and Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff will take part in what is believed to be the first-ever Spanish-language political debate (for a major office) in Colorado. 

Univision will air the debate live at 5:00 on Thursday. Romanoff is fluent in Spanish, and Coffman has been feverishly working to learn the language over the last year or two. It should be interesting.

Kudos to Mi Familia Vota, Noticas Colorado, and everyone involved with making this debate happen.

RomanoffCoffman-SpanishDebate

Let’s get ready to retumbar!!!

Maddow Rips Megyn Kelly Over Colorado Ballot Fiction

We took note last week of FOX News evening anchor Megyn Kelly's Tuesday night opening segment, in which Kelly breathessly declared that a "new law" in Colorado has "opened the door to potential voter fraud." Specifically, Kelly claimed, Colorado voters now have the ability to "print ballots on their home computer." This statement struck us as very odd, mostly because we knew right away it was false: other than overseas and military absentee voters who had the ability to do this before Colorado's 2013 election modernization law, nobody can print up a ballot from their home computer.

What's even more surprising to us–not apparently to regular FOX News watchdogs, but we're surprised–is that days later, nobody at FOX News has corrected this blatantly false claim by one of that network's highest-rated news anchors. Because Colorado residents either already know or can easily find out from their county clerk that the story is false, the opportunity for harmful effects on our elections is limited. But if you're a FOX News viewer in another state, listening to that network's almost-daily warnings of imminent election fraud across the nation, this story is going to rightly freak you out: especially when it goes uncorrected.

As Mediaite reported this weekend, the pressure on FOX News to do something about this bogus report is getting louder:

First, 9News anchor Kyle Clark drew attention to Kelly’s remarks and said, “We normally reserve our truth test for political ads, but that claim is misleading.” He explained that the only voters allowed to print out and turn in ballots that way are military and overseas voters. No other Coloradans will be allowed to vote that way.

And then, Friday night, [MSNBS host Rachel] Maddow took a turn going after Kelly, bringing the issues with Kelly’s reporting into the national spotlight. Maddow mocked how seriously Kelly was reporting on this revelation “that they made up.” She explained that other states have similar laws about at-home ballots for service members, but “Fox has now decided that in the state of Colorado, that’s terrifying, even if it doesn’t terrify them anywhere else in the country.”

Call us Pollyannish, but how in the hell can a mainstream news outlet–yes, that includes FOX News–report something so blatantly false, and not correct it all these days later? It's one thing to get facts wrong in a news story. This happens for all kinds of reasons, and a lot of the time it's not the fault of the journalist. Even when it is, a correction is the bare minimum a news outlet can do to ensure that their historical record is accurate. Corrections are still frustrating, since they generally are never seen by as many people who saw the original error, but it's something.

What does it say when the nation's highest-rated "news" network allows blatant lies to go totally uncorrected?

Whatever's going on here, it's as far from "journalism" as you can get.

Argumentum in Terrorem: Gardner, Beauprez Appeal To Fear

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

The Colorado Independent's Susan Greene has a must-read story out today, discussing the late-game turn by GOP U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner to an overtly fear-based foreign policy message against incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall:

WITH a week until this off-year election, Republicans had two options to prod their party members to vote.

One was…to pull months of punches and put happy faces on the combative GOP challengers seeking to unseat the state’s Democratic governor and U.S. senator. The other was to try to scare the bajeezus out of voters.

They’ve chosen the latter.

“Vote like your life depends on it,” reads a recent mailer authorized by Republican U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner’s campaign. It features a shadowy picture of four faceless jihadists-looking-types brandishing guns. [Pols emphasis]

Then there’s the $3.5 million TV ad by crisis creator Karl Rove’s political spin-machine Crossroads GPS attacking U.S. Sen. Mark Udall’s national security credentials. It stars a 30-something woman identified only as “Melissa, mother of five,” sitting on somebody’s American dreamy front porch holding an iPad…

National security has traditionally been a strong point for Sen. Udall, both from his time in the U.S. House and in the Senate. Udall serves on the Armed Services Committee and the Select Committee on Intelligence, and generally has a voting record that voters like: Udall voted against the Iraq war, but has voted to support troops in the field with appropriations unlike many other Democrats. Udall's high profile on issues like National Security Agency domestic surveillance and the Senate's battle with the Central Intelligence Agency over interrogation policy, long before this election, give Udall credibility as he positions himself at odds with the Obama administration.

So naturally, knocking Udall down on this core issue is a big priority for the GOP.

Bob Beauprez.

Bob Beauprez.

The hit on Udall over foreign policy in the latter stages of the campaign has made use of the two most popular foreign policy scare stories in circulation nationally: the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). We talked last week about Gardner's highly misleading comments about Ebola in a recent debate, refuted strongly by Politifact. Likewise, Factcheck.org notes that the attacks on Udall over ISIS from Crossroads GPS, originating in an out-of-context quote from a debate last summer, have little basis in reality:

Udall didn’t dismiss ISIL as nothing to worry about. Instead, he said the terrorist group wasn’t an “imminent” threat to the U.S. but will be in the future if the country doesn’t respond in the Middle East now.

This isn’t the only attack ad to pick up on the Udall quote. The NRSC highlighted it in an ad also portraying Udall as soft on terrorism, as did Udall’s Republican opponent, Rep. Cory Gardner.

But the Crossroads ad is the only one to actually cite a news article that supports what Udall said. While the woman in the ad says, “As a mom and a Marine, I know the danger is closer to home than Sen. Udall seems to think,” an on-screen graphic cites an August USA Today article headlined, “Returning Islamic State fighters could threaten USA.” That article quotes experts saying that an attack on U.S. soil isn’t an imminent threat, but there’s concern about what could happen if fighters holding Western passports return home.

In the Colorado gubernatorial race, the big story over the weekend was the blowback against GOP candidate Bob Beauprez for his factually-challenged misuse of the murder of the director of the Colorado Department of Corrections last year in campaign ads–ads that became toxic after the widow of director Tom Clements told Beauprez to stop falsely politicizing her husband's murder. There is a common theme between Beauprez's untruthful attack on Hickenlooper over Clements' murder and the misleading attacks on Sen. Udall over national security.

The common theme is a willingness to lie to people in order to scare them. It's not our purpose to rule on whether this is an effective tactic, as in the right circumstances it surely can be–but it does generally occur for certain reasons. We'll leave it to our readers to discuss in this case what those may be.

2014′s “Swing Issue?” Public Education

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

We've all heard it before: "As goes Jefferson County, so goes Colorado." 

In an election year where national developments such as Ebola and ISIS have created more generalized voter angst than focused anger, Colorado's 2014 state legislative races seemed destined to enter the final stretch with no clear definition or rallying cry.

Meanwhile, in Jeffco – which has four targeted races that will ultimately determine which party will control the state Senate – the new school board majority that was elected last year was conducting itself in a way that created some concern among parents and teachers, but didn't set off particularly potent alarms outside the education community.

But, just as ballots were dropped off in mailboxes, the defining moment came: Julie Williams' proposal to sanitize AP US history. Once she tipped the board majority's hand, the deep concerns among parents about what the Jeffco School board might be planning turned into a nationally broadcast, student-protest-fueled, laser-focused rejection of what the majority was proposing. 

That's how defining issues are born. Jeffco voters who currently have no way to take direct electoral action against the board majority are looking for ways to make their voices heard. They're asking about it when candidates come to the door and, judging from a spate of new video ads from the Democratic Senate Campaign Fund, Senator Andy Kerr, Senator Rachel Zenzinger, Citizens Alliance for Accountable Leadership, and Great Education Colorado Independent Expenditure Committee, supporting public education must be polling pretty well.

(more…)

Monday Open Thread

"Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established, that, unless we love the truth, we cannot know it."

–Blaise Pascal

  • RECENT COMMENTS