Search Results for: gessler

Who’s Afraid of All-Mail Ballots? Not The GOP Anymore!

Eli Stokols of FOX 31 writes for Politico Magazine about one very unexpected development of this week's election in Colorado: how the GOP appears to have utilized the state's new all-mail ballot system, a reform they staunchly opposed in the legislature last year, to considerable success:

What has been viewed as a partisan attempt by Democrats to further capitalize on the state’s shifting demographics, making it easier for low-propensity voters to cast ballots, appears to have backfired. An early read of Colorado’s returns shows a much older electorate than anyone had predicted: roughly 60 percent of Colorado voters were over the age of 50. Thus, it appears that many who took advantage of the mail-in option were older voters who tended Republican. Turnout, despite the best efforts of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s vaunted Bannock Street Project and other turnout efforts by other progressive groups, was barely above 2010 levels. Gardner won easily and Beauprez took Hickenlooper, who finally claimed victory Wednesday morning, to extra innings because Democrats were surprisingly hoisted on their own petard of election reform.

While so many people are concerned about Republican efforts to roll back voter rights in other states with controversial voter ID laws, limits on absentee balloting and other measures, Democrats—by expanding voting rights in Colorado—paid the price in a state they might otherwise have won.

In the final days of the campaign, Udall’s team saw a narrow path to a late Election Night victory if they could get the overall Republican voter registration advantage below 6 percent and win big with unaffiliated voters. In the end, they did narrow the GOP edge to 5.4 percent, less than the 6 percent margin Sen. Michael Bennet overcame in 2010. But they fell well short of Bennet’s double-digit margins with unaffiliated voters. That’s little surprise given Gardner’s strength as a candidate—he simply never seemed as scary to women or Hispanic voters as Udall’s campaign said he was—and the fundamentals of the 2014 cycle.

In the Denver Post's related story today, DU professor Seth Masket is less certain mail ballots boosted the GOP, but it's pretty evident they did not help Democrats close the gap in a midterm election already stacked against them:

"It's hard to say what the overall lesson for turnout is" from the universal mail-ballot law, said Seth Masket, chairman of the University of Denver's Department of Political Science. "But what happened in Colorado doesn't look too different from what happened in an awful lot of other states, in that you saw some Republicans who outperformed the polling, and Democrats took losses (nearly) across the board."

Masket long had been skeptical that the 2013 law passed by Colorado Democrats — requiring the sending of a ballot to every registered voter with a verifiable address — would boost Democrats' prospects in a non-presidential election.

The legislation that resulted in mail ballots being sent to every registered voters in Colorado this year, House Bill 13-1303, was hotly opposed by Republicans in the legislature in Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler. Right-leaning "vote watchdogs" like eccentric Aspen millionaire Marilyn Marks warned that mail ballots would allow Democrats to swamp the election with fraud. Now Secretary of State-elect Wayne Williams…well, he didn't actually help scare people about this law much, it's true, though he did try. The law attracted conservative attention again after "gotcha" artist James O'Keefe led a couple of low-level GOTV staffers into endorsing his theory about how mail ballot fraud might work (even though what he proposed would never work).

Regardless, with the election now over and the GOP riding high, Republicans are singing a very different tune about Colorado's mail ballots:

"With mail ballots, the presumption has been it's better for Democrats and liberal interest groups," said Josh Penry, a Republican consultant to the Coffman campaign. "That doesn't have to be the case. The advantage goes to who's best-funded and -organized."

In hindsight, the results make it pretty clear that that the hysteria over House Bill 13-1303 was as unfounded as the Republican county clerks who helped write it always said. And if you're not convinced that Republicans were not fully embracing House Bill 1303 by Election Day, here's Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute–one of the most controversial opponents of the new election laws–endorsing same-day voter registration:

Bottom line: Colorado's experiment with modernized, easily accessible voting in 2014 strongly argues against the kinds of voting restrictions traditionally favored by Republicans. Where in many states Republican-controlled legislatures have clamped down on voting methods, accessibility, and documentation, Colorado took the 180-degree opposition approach of making it as easy to vote as possible while preserving basic safeguards.

And apparently, that didn't hurt the GOP at all. While that one-time result may disappoint some partisan Democrats, we are obliged to consider it a positive development for small-d democracy.

Hickenlooper Survives 2014 Democratic Bloodbath

UPDATE: In a message to supporters a short while ago, Republican Bob Beauprez concedes defeat:

This is a different message to share with you than we had hoped. We have been watching the results as votes continue to be counted and unfortunately at this point, even with a handful of counties still reporting, there just aren't enough options to get us across the finish line.

I just spoke with Governor Hickenlooper. We had a good conversation and I congratulated him on a hard fought race.

—–

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Moments ago, The Denver Post called the Colorado gubernatorial race for incumbent Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper:

Gov. John Hickenlooper is projected to hold his office, according to calculations by The Denver Post on Wednesday morning.

With 93 percent of votes counted as of about 7:20 a.m., Hickenlooper is leading Bob Beauprez, a Republican, by roughly 22,000 votes. Votes are still being tallied in predominantly Democratic Boulder and Denver counties.

Hickenlooper holds 48.3 percent of the vote while Beauprez is trailing with 47.1 percent.

As Election Day turned to Wednesday, Democratic strongholds in Denver and Boulder still had tens of thousands of votes left to count. Swing-state counties and GOP holdouts, meanwhile, had far fewer ballots left for Beauprez to make gains.

Outgoing GOP Secretary of State Scott Gessler says in this story there is a "strong likelihood" of a recount, but at present that would not be automatic: it would be up to Bob Beauprez's campaign to pay for it unless the margin drops to under half a percent. While we wouldn't put that past Beauprez, the numbers just don't appear to be there for a recount to close the margin.

With Hickenlooper's apparent narrow victory over Beauprez, along with the defeat of both 2013 Republican recall election winners by Democrats in Colorado Springs and Pueblo, there's an interesting sidenote forming to what was undeniably a terrible night for Democrats in Colorado and across the nation. We have a lot of analysis coming on this election, but we'll start our readers off this Wednesday morning with an observation: that the gun lobby, for all of their agitation over the past two years, didn't factor much last night.

On a day when many, many Republican votes are cast, Beauprez's defeat after another of his now-trademark over-the-top negative campaigns is a repudiation of that style of politics as well–in stark contrast to the indestructible beatific grin that helped Cory Gardner become our state's junior U.S. Senator. It's very clear that campaign tactics in Colorado are going to change after this election on both sides; and we would regard the universal disavowal of blatant mendacious fearmongering in our politics as a positive development.

And congratulations to Gov. Hickenlooper, perhaps the happiest Democrat in America today.

Vote Fraud: The Great Nothingburger of 2014

James OKeefe, wearing a Mark Udall sticker.

James O’Keefe, wearing his Mark Udall sticker.

As the Denver Post's Joey Bunch reports:

This campaign season, Colorado's new mail-ballot voter law has drawn the national sideshow attention of cable news and opinion, AM radio and even a sting by conservative provocateur James O'Keefe — all focused on the notion that Tuesday's outcome could be tainted.

But perception hasn't been reality, according to election officials on both sides of the deep political divide who report only a routine percentage of challenged signatures, undeliverable ballots and reports of alleged shenanigans.

Mesa County Clerk Sheila Reiner said the lack of actual trouble is largely because voting by mail is nothing new. It's been an option for Colorado voters since 1992. And in the 2012 general election, 73 percent of Coloradans cast mail ballots.

"What's different is we have a party that's made allegations of fraud part of its platform," Reiner, a Republican who is president of the Colorado County Clerks Association, said of some members of her party. [Pols emphasis]

In addition to the increased overall turnout in this midterm, the apparent success of House Bill 13-1303 is a major blow to perennial Republican allegations of "massive voter fraud" either being planned or perpetrated by Democrats in this state. Ginning up voter fraud fears outside Colorado was the purpose of right-wing provocateur James O'Keefe's "sting" of two low-level third party organization GOTV groups in October.

O'Keefe's video of himself leading a couple of field hands into agreeing with his hamfisted plot to commit voter fraud–a plot that would fail due to verification procedures in place in every county clerk's office–made the rounds within the national right-wing mediasphere, but the story never caught on here in Colorado or with national mainstream media. The reason is simple, as Bunch continues–it's not happening.

[C]lerks note that each ballot is screened to make sure the signatures match voter registration records. And so far the numbers of signatures that have been flagged by election judges as incorrect matches are roughly the same as they were in the 2012 general election in El Paso, Denver, Mesa and Pueblo counties checked by The Denver Post on Friday…

El Paso County's clerk and recorder, Wayne Williams, the Republican nominee for secretary of state, appeared on the Fox News Channel on Tuesday night to talk about his concerns that a ballot in every household, regardless of what the voter prefers, would open the way for undue influence by others in the home.

"We haven't seen any significant issues in this county," he said Friday. [Pols emphasis]

Even outgoing Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler, who led the fact-challenged assault of House Bill 13-1303 and who has alleged widespread voter fraud throughout his term in office without supporting evidence, has been forced to acknowledge the lack of actual problems with the law as it's been implemented–other than complaining about the "Herculean effort" his office made to develop the statewide electronic pollbook, another key fraud prevention check that appears to be working fine.

This is worth keeping in mind, given the shift in ballot returns that began yesterday to favor Democrats. There is a well-established narrative today that Republican victory is "inevitable," even as the polls tighten and the ballot returns turn against them in the final days. If Democrats emerge victorious, as happened in 2010 and 2012 under very similar conditions, we expect the cries of "vote fraud" to become quite loud and obnoxious. Consumers of conservative media have likely heard about O'Keefe's little sting, but will never read this story or the others that disprove him.

If Democrats do prevail, some conspiracist diehards will never be convinced it wasn't fraud. But should it happen this way as it has before, try to explain this stuff to the reasonable people in your life.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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Where’s SoS Gessler when Voter Fraud being committed by James O’Keefe?

Secretary of State Gessler warns us about voter fraud all the time. Now, we know he's most likely in the back pocket of the Koch Brothers and ALEC and fully intends to disenfranchise Democratic voters as his primary goal in this oh-so-noble effort. But, what if we were to give him the benefit of the doubt and presume he would enforce the integrity of our elections even as they are attacked in real time by Fox News provocateur James O'Keefe?

As Mother Jones and Colorado Pols have reported, the convict has been performing his special kind of reporting lately, which has been dutifully reported by Fox News and admirably debunked by our own 9News and others. With these reports it seems quite apparent the James O'Keefe is intent on manipulating Colorado's elections in this critical election year. 

And so, if SoS Scott Gessler doesn't see a problem with these manipulations, maybe we should make sure he knows that we don't appreciate what O'Keefe is doing. And maybe we should contact our Secretary of State now to implore him to stop James O'Keefe and have AG Suthers prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law. 

And one must wonder if O'Keefe is violating his parole from that earlier conviction.

SoS contact page here. Other info below:

Elections & Voting

Suite 200
303-894-2200
303-869-4861 (FAX)
elections@sos.state.co.us

Campaign Finance 
303-894-2200 & press 3
cpfhelp@sos.state.co.us

Help America Vote Act (HAVA)
SCORE
Voter information
 

Elections Staff Directory

Even More Right Wing Ballot BS Debunked By 9NEWS

Kudos again to 9NEWS' excellent reporting in the last 24 hours, discrediting a flurry of alarmist nonsense from conservatives about Colorado's mail ballot system. Last night, reporter Brandon Rittiman debunked another truly bizarre lie about Colorado elections, broadcast to millions of FOX News viewers across America yesterday by lead anchor Megyn Kelly:

Tuesday's episode of a Fox News host Megyn Kelly's program incorrectly told viewers that Colorado voters are now able to print ballots using their home computers and vote by turning them in…

The host described it as a "first of its kind election law: a set of rules that literally allows residents to print ballots from their home computers, then encourages them to turn ballots over to 'collectors' in what appears to be an effort to do away with traditional polling places."

While traditional polling places are a thing of the past because of the law, the claim that it allows for home-printed ballots is simply false…

Once again, none other than Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler is obliged to confirm the news that any voter conversant with the process already knows: this is completely bogus. Other than overseas deployed members of the military, who had the option of being emailed a ballot before last year's election modernization bill, nobody can "print a ballot from their home computer."

It's important to remember that this was not intended to cause controversy locally, since locals know that you can't print a ballot from your computer. The purpose of this very deliberate lie from FOX News is to generate even more vote fraud mythology to reinforce the beliefs of a segment of the electorate who already believes it's happening. Just like James O'Keefe's baiting low-level campaign workers to recite an unworkable fraud proposal, the facts simply do not support the hysteria. Because we think FOX News either knows or should know such elementary facts about Colorado voting law before broadcasting them, the only reasonable conclusion is that the hysteria is an end unto itself.

Watch the video above and tell us we're wrong.

James O’Keefe Helps Debunk Mail Ballot Fraud Myths

James OKeefe, wearing a Mark Udall sticker.

James OKeefe, wearing a Mark Udall sticker.

Conservative media lit up yesterday after conservative provocateur James O'Keefe released a video from his recent "vote fraud" sting attempts in Colorado. Last weekend, we got reports that O'Keefe was in the state attempting to bait Democratic field campaign workers into endorsing fraudulent acts involving mail ballots. Word spread fast from there, but evidently O'Keefe had been on the ground for some time before his presence was publicized.

In the end, it does appear that O'Keefe got what he wanted: out of presumably dozens of attempts where he was informed that his proposal would be felony vote fraud, it looks like he found two people willing to follow his bait into a very, very bad idea: collecting unused mail ballots from students who have moved or transferred, completing them, and turning them in.

Before we go any further, everyone does realize that is a serious crime, right? Good. Let's be very clear about what happened here: O'Keefe was able to lead a couple of low-level table staffers into saying some eye-poppingly stupid things. One agreed with him that turning in other people's ballots would be morally okay, the other actually volunteered "ghetto Aurora" as a good place to collect unused ballots. In both cases, what these staffers for nonprofits Work for Progress and Greenpeace respectively said was absolutely termination-offense unacceptable. We'll go a step further and say the one who got all racial about helping out O'Keefe with his fraud designs must, for the common good, never work in politics again. But in neither case is there any suggestion that these staff would have come up with the idea to do this were it not for O'Keefe's prompting. There's no actual plan by anyone to do what he suggests.

And there's a good reason for that: as our local media has done a good job explaining since O'Keefe's video broke yesterday, the ballot fraud O'Keefe is proposing simply would not work. 9NEWS reports that even GOP Secretary of State Scott Gessler can't defend O'Keefe's allegations:

"I can't promise people that it will happen," Sec. of State Scott Gessler said. "I can't promise people that it can't happen. But what I can say is we've got a pretty good system and we're always trying to make it better." [Pols emphasis]

County clerks are required by law to verify signatures on ballots. Gessler says there is a loophole in that law allowing signatures to go unverified if a witness signs the ballot.

But clerks contend witness signatures are rare, and they still have the power to scrutinize those ballots if they seem suspicious.

Witness-signed ballots are indeed rare–and as the Denver clerk's office explains, you can't just fish a ballot out of somebody else's mailbox and send it in. It will be caught:

"That check of signature verification is really the stopgap to prevent ballots that are being filled out by people who are not the voter," said Amber McReynolds, the director of Denver's elections division.

About 1.5% of the ballots turned into the Denver clerk's office so far have been flagged for signature verification according to this story. That doesn't mean they're fraudulent, of course, it just means that the signature on file with the Denver clerk didn't match the signature on the ballot envelope closely enough to mass automatic muster–or weren't signed at all. Affected voters are notified and given the opportunity to "cure" their ballot by verifying their signature. That's how the system has always worked for absentee and mail-in ballots, and it actually works well. Without anything to go on, what's a fraudster supposed to do to fake someone's signature?

Yes, there's probably some elaborate scheme that could be concocted to obtain examples of signatures of voters to believably forge on mail ballots. If we were to think about all the ways we could violate, you know, just about any law, there are elaborate Rube Goldberg machine ideas we could come up with to pull it off.

But nobody's doing these crazy things to commit vote fraud. It's much cheaper to get out the vote in legal ways.

In a sense, it's good that O'Keefe gave our county clerks a chance to explain how voting by mail actually works in Colorado. It won't mean much to the right wing media breathlessly reporting on O'Keefe's "proven vote fraud" video, or the consumers of said media who aren't really interested in facts that might render them less agitated. But the people who matter–Colorado voters–can be assured that our system does work.

When even Scott Gessler grudgingly admits it, you can feel pretty confident.

Infighting and Petty Posturing in Beauprez Camp

Dustin Olson, via Glamour Shots

Dustin Olson, via Glamour Shots

When Republican gubernatorial nominee Bob Beauprez was putting his campaign together last spring, he made a point of trying to include top staffers from other flailing or near-dead Republican campaigns. This was easier said than done, according to Republican insiders, who say that Beauprez thought he could make a nice stew with a bunch of mismatched ingredients.

What might have seemed a good idea to Beauprez at the time has resulted primarily in infighting, petty posturing, and silly turf wars that are straining the seams of a campaign desperately trying to find some sort of momentum in the closing weeks of the election…and threatening to poison other GOP campaigns along the way.

As Coloradans count down the last two weeks of the 2014 election cycle, rumors of trouble inside the Beauprez campaign have seeped outside of Republican circles. From what we hear, problems that were simmering over paychecks and grievances about who really represented the "top of the ticket" (Beauprez or GOP Senate nominee Cory Gardner) have grown more heated in recent weeks as Beauprez has failed to gain any real traction in his bid to unseat Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Bob Beauprez for Governor

Bob Beauprez’s Oct. 14th campaign finance report.

It's no secret that the Republican Party in Colorado has been scattered in every direction in recent years. The emergence of the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party in 2009 significantly altered the GOP power structure, but upheaval within Colorado Republican circles actually dates back to the bitter 2006 gubernatorial primary between Beauprez and Marc Holtzman.

Beauprez thought he could find some measure of Kumbaya by recruiting a top Holtzman staffer — Ryan Lynch — to join his campaign after State Sen. Greg Brophy ended his campaign and took Beauprez's side during the "Dear God, anybody but Scott Gessler" phase of the GOP Primary (Lynch had been working on Brophy's sputtering campaign for governor).

But Beauprez already had Republican strategist Dustin Olson at the top of his campaign hierarchy, in addition to Communications Director (and son-in-law) Allen Fuller. From what we understand, Beauprez probably screwed up by approving a huge disparity in salaries for the three men. Courting Lynch so insistently probably didn't make the Alpha Males of Team Beauprez feel much better, either.

Campaign finance reports (at left) show that Olson alone collects nearly double the monthly salary of Lynch and Fuller combined. Olson was paid $12,000 at the beginning of October, with Lynch and Fuller each taking home $6,500. Interestingly, Beauprez's reports are careful to note that Olson and Lynch hold similar titles with the campaign; both Olson and Lynch are listed as "Manager and Deputy Managers," a title share that surely makes Lynch feel much better about his bank account.

Bob's Beard

Allen Fuller still has the best beard of the Beauprez staffers.

Adding to the drama has been Beauprez's Lt. Governor running mate Jill Repella (remember her? No?) Repella has made it a point in her "public" appearances with Republican Party faithful to talk about how "proud" she is to be "representing the top of the Republican ticket in Colorado." You could argue whether Beauprez or Gardner truly maintains the "top spot" in Colorado GOP campaign circles, though on a broader scale, the implications of a Gardner victory are much more important for Republicans. This has become a regular source of irritation for Republicans in Colorado, many of whom would probably side with Gardner if they had to choose one or the other.

We don't want to overstate the importance of any of this, but it should not be ignored, either.

You can often tell a great deal about the direction of a campaign based on the mood of the core people involved. This kind of infighting can, and does, happen from time to time, but you usually see it when a campaign has reached its conclusion and the great Monday-morning quarterbacking begins. The fact that these rumors are spilling out now is a bad omen in general for Beauprez's campaign.

Joe Neguse Sets Fundraising Record for SOS Candidates

Joe Neguse

Joe Neguse, Democrat for Secretary of State

According to a press release sent out yesterday by the campaign of Democrat Joe Neguse:

Today Joe Neguse for Secretary of State announced raising $461,380 in contributions. Neguse surpassed the total amount raised by any candidate running for Secretary of State in the history of Colorado. [Pols emphasis]

Mike Coffman previously held the record with $446,660 total raised in his 2006 run for the office. Neguse has already bougth $280,000 in TV ads. Neguse's Republican opponent, on the other hand, appears to have raised the least amount  of any candidate (Republican or Democrat) running for statewide office in Colorado.

Republican Wayne Williams has raised a total of $225,522, which isn't even half of the total raised by Neguse. We're actually kind of surprised Williams has even raised that much given his numerous problems with fundraising.

Neguse has run a very strong campaign for Secretary of State, which gives him the best odds in our view of the three Democrats running for down ballot statewide races (Attorney General, Treasurer, SOS). As we've said many times in the past, it is tough for any candidates running for these seats to really make a mark in an election year where tens of millions of dollars are being spent on three races alone (Governor, U.S. Senate, CO-6), particularly given the fact that Colorado voters tend to split their votes for these second-tier seats. But the combination of Neguse's strong campaign and Williams' general ineptitude — not to mention a poisonous four years from current SOS Scott Gessler – may just put Neguse over the top in November.

 

At Least He’s Not Your Secretary of State

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R).

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R).

Our neighbors in Kansas have got a real pickle on their hands trying to sort out that state's U.S. Senate race–a situation that could endanger Republican hopes of taking control of the U.S. Senate this year. The Democratic candidate, prosecutor Chad Taylor, withdrew to avoid splitting votes with independent candidate Greg Orman–a popular candidate with a decent shot at unseating incumbent Republican Sen. Pat Roberts.

As the Kansas City Star reports, the state's secretary of state Kris Kobach has gone to extreme lengths to keep Taylor on the ballot, in a brazen effort to protect fellow Republican Sen. Roberts. Yesterday, the Kansas Supreme Court handed Kobach and Roberts a final defeat in the case:

The state Supreme Court Thursday ordered [Kobach] to strike Democrat Chad Taylor from the November ballot for U.S. Senate, ruling Taylor had complied with state law allowing a candidate to withdraw.

Just a few minutes later, Kobach — a Republican — said he’ll tell the Kansas Democratic party to pick a replacement by noon Sept. 26.

It wasn’t immediately clear how Kobach can force Democrats to pick another Senate nominee. Kobach had asked the state Supreme Court to consider such an order in Thursday’s ruling, but the judges said Democrats weren’t a part of the case…

The Democratic nominee withdrew Sept. 3. But Kobach said the withdrawal language lacked the specific language required by state law, and restored him to the ballot.

Taylor sued. Thursday, the court — in an unsigned opinion — said Taylor’s referral to the state law was sufficient to officially remove him from the ballot.

“The Secretary of State thus has no discretion to refuse to remove Chadwick J. Taylor’s name from the ballot,” the court said. There was no published dissent.

Kansas Republicans cry shame, but their complaint is pretty ridiculous on its face:

“The Kansas Supreme Court deliberately, and for political purposes, disenfranchised over 65,000 voters,” said Roberts spokesman Corry Bliss in a statement.

“Liberal activist Supreme Court justices have decided that if you voted in the Democrat primary on August 5th, your vote does not matter, your voice does not matter,” his statement said.

Thus expressing probably the most "concern" Republicans have felt for Democratic primary voters in…well, ever. The real problem here, of course, is that independent candidate Greg Orman is beating GOP Sen. Roberts in the polls. The Kansas Supreme Court dismissed the faux concern from Republicans about "disenfranchised" Democrats, and noted correctly–obviously–that if Chad Taylor doesn't want to be a Senate candidate, and the ballots haven't been printed yet, he doesn't have to be on the ballot. It was reportedly outside the scope of the court's ruling today, but it seems very unlikely that the court will force Democrats to nominate someone else as Kobach seems to want now. Because, well, how exactly can you do that? Kobach's "interpretations" of Kansas election law border on the absurd–which gives you an idea how desperate Kansas Republicans are to protect this Senate seat.

It's worth noting also that Kris Kobach, in addition to being a conservative darling, is a close ally of Colorado's outgoing GOP Secretary of State Scott Gessler. The two have collaborated on projects like Gessler's embarrassing and basically fruitless quest for "thousands" of illegal voters. Gessler, like Kobach, has been shot down hard by the courts for his "novel" interpretations of Colorado election law–interpretations that just happen to benefit Gessler's fellow Republicans.

As you can see, Gessler has plenty of company.

Pueblo Chieftain Smears “Bo” Ortiz for Political Revenge

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Poor Bo. He just can't catch a break from the Pueblo Chieftain.  To inform the public,  Gilbert "Bo" Ortiz voluntarily advised the Pueblo Chieftain about  faulty driver's licenses distributed by  a Colorado Revenue Department vendor, MorphoTrust. The state IDs and licenses were supposed to have a black band across the top, identifying those ineligible to vote, but 524 of these IDs were sent out without the flag. 

The Chieftain chose  to run the ID story on page one, next to a photo of Ortiz, with the banner headline, "Faulty ID Cards Issued", on September 16, 2014. . The teaser subheading on the online edition read, "No concern for voter fraud." Who issued the faulty IDs? Who is unconcerned about voter fraud?  Judging by his photo under the headline, a reasonable reader would infer: Gilbert "Bo" Ortiz.

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Gessler, Brauchler, Still Can’t Make Facts Fit Illegal Voter Narrative

Noooooo!!! Oh, nevermind.

Noooooo!!! Oh, nevermind.

As Election Day gets closer and closer, so, too, does the end of Republican Scott Gessler's contentious term as Colorado's Secretary of State. Perhaps one day we will all look back at this period of time and laugh to ourselves in disbelief that Gessler could have actually been in charge of voting in Colorado.

Back when Gessler first took office in January 2011, he told everyone who would listen that Colorado had a massive problem with illegal voters casting illegal ballots. In fact, Gessler testified before Congress that he was aware of at least 16,270 illegal voter registrations in Colorado, including 5,000 who illegally cast a ballot. Those numbers, of course, never held up to even the slightest level of scrutiny. In July 2013, Gessler's office produced a list of 155 people — yes, just 155 — who were suspected of having registered to vote illegally. What happened to the other 16,115 that Gessler boldly proclaimed to Congress as illegal voters? Perhaps someone in the Secretary of State's office just accidentally cut-and-paste the same names 110 times.

Last November, Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler, a very partisan Republican DA, announced that his office had indicted a grand total of 4 (four) people alleged to have been involved in illegally registering to vote. In June, charges were dropped in one of those cases, and yesterday, a judge tossed charges in a second Brauchler case. From CBS4 Denver:

A judge dismissed an election-fraud charge against an Aurora man on Wednesday after prosecutors said they could not prove he was the one who illegally registered himself to vote.

Tadesse G. Degefa, who is not a U.S. citizen, had been charged with procuring false registration for allegedly signing up to vote in 2012.

District Attorney George Brauchler said the secretary of state’s voter registration website does not have safeguards to prevent someone from illegally registering someone else to vote.

According to CBS 4, charges are still pending against one canvasser and one noncitizen. In other words, out of Gessler's original claim of 16,270 cases of illegal voter registration, we may (and only possibly) end up with just two people who may have not even intentionally been involved with illegally registering a voter. And guess how many people look to have actually voted illegally?

At this point, none. As in, zero.

So, Scott Gessler was pretty close in his estimation of voter fraud — give or take 16,270 people.

D’Oh! Republicans Looking at Serious Campaign Finance Violation

Kit Roupe Oops

Illegal coordination? In-kind campaign contribution? Take your pick!

Colorado Republicans have had quite a bit of trouble with campaign finance violations during this election cycle, and the hits just keep on coming. The variety of violations has been curious — from Tim Neville's open courting of anonymous donations to Secretary of State candidate Wayne Williams accepting obviously illegal donations — but sometimes the biggest problems can come from simple sloppiness.

Take a look at this recent mail piece in support of Republican Kit Roupe in HD-17 (Colorado Springs). The mailer comes from the Colorado Leadership Fund, which is a GOP "soft side" political 527 committee formed to help elect Republican candidates to the State House.

The problem here should be fairly obvious to the politically-astute reader: Side two of the mailer directs readers to CatherineRoupe.com, which is the official campaign website for Kit Roupe. Official campaign materials produced or created by the candidate's campaign falls into the category of "hard side" campaign finances.

It is illegal for the "soft side" and "hard side" to coordinate together, of course, but this would likely qualify as an "in-kind" contribution to Roupe's campaign (because it promotes her official campaign website). By making this "in-kind" contribution, the Colorado Leadership Fund (CLF) just inadvertently changed its legal definition from a non-profit "527" committee to an official political committee.

Why does that matter? Without getting too technical here, "527" committees operate under different rules as political committees. By making this unsolicited "in-kind" contribution to Roupe's campaign and changing its legal definition to a political committee, every contribution the CLF has received in the last 180 days (and henceforth) that exceeds the $550 limit for State House candidates is now a campaign finance violation subject to penalties that are 2-5 times the amount of the violation. Not only that, but the CLF probably now has to file regular contribution and expenditure reports that are much more frequent — and much more transparent — than anything that is done through a "527" committee.

This is a silly, silly, silly mistake that may prove incredibly costly to Republicans even if Secretary of State Scott Gessler lets them off the hook for campaign finance penalties. The bigger issue for the GOP is that it now has a serious credibility problem with major donors who are most definitely not interested in having a big spotlight shone in their eyes.

Republicans have been playing fast and loose with campaign finance rules during the entire 2014 election season, and it's possible that this particular problem will have crossover effect with the GOP's shiny new "soft side" organization charged with winning control of the State Senate.

The GOP had little hope of winning control of the State House this year, but we're guessing that Republican Reps. Libby Szabo and Brian DelGrosso won't be put in charge of anything more important than making coffee in 2016.

 

View the full PDF of the Roupe mailer here: Page 1 (KitRoupe-Mail1) and Page 2 (KitRoupe-Mail2).

 

What To Make of Gessler Harrassment Allegations?

Scott Gessler.

Scott Gessler.

Earlier this week, Westword's Melanie Asmar posted a story about the former chief financial officer in Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler's office–who claims she was harassed, intimidated, and ultimately demoted after she raised questions about Gessler's use of discretionary account funds. You'll recall that Gessler's use of taxpayer money to attend partisan political events resulted in a ruling from the state's Independent Ethics Commission that he had "breached the public trust for private gain."

As published at Westword Tuesday afternoon:

The former chief financial officer for the Colorado Secretary of State's Office is accusing Secretary Scott Gessler of harassing her, retaliating against her and eventually demoting her after she "began to push back on the financial mismanagement" she reportedly saw in the office. Heather Lizotte took issue with Gessler's use of the office's $5,000 discretionary fund and federal grant funds meant to improve state elections, according to a lengthy claim notice filed with the Colorado Attorney General's Office.

According to the notice, Lizotte began working for the secretary of state's office in 2003 and got excellent performance reviews for many years. The trouble started shortly after Gessler took office in 2010, the notice says. Gessler made headlines for wanting to moonlight at his previous law firm because, he claimed, the secretary of state's salary wasn't enough. Meanwhile, the notice says, Gessler didn't always provide receipts in connection with his use of the office's $5,000 discretionary fund; at the end of fiscal years 2011 and 2012, he also asked Lizotte to give him all of the money left in the fund.

Lizotte told Gessler's staff "that the casual practices being used were not appropriate," the notice says. In a November 2011 e-mail to two staffers, Lizotte wrote that all expenditures from the discretionary fund "should have supporting documentation (for example meal receipts etc.)" and that memos for "blanket expenditures" are not allowed. Lizotte's insistence on the rules, the notice says, caused "ongoing tension" between her and Gessler.

Heather Lizotte testified before the Independent Ethics Commission about the matter of Gessler's discretionary funds account. As Westword reports, Lizotte claims that after her testimony, Gessler and his close staff started shutting her out of meetings. Within a few months, Lizotte was on the wrong side of performance evaluations, and in June she was demoted with loss of pay. While we can't claim to know all of the particulars, there are plenty of circumstances in play here that could add up to plausible claim of retaliation.

Between Tuesday and yesterday afternoon, though, something interesting happened. In a new story, Asmar writes about SoS employees, in interviews "facilitated by Gessler's office," coming out of the woodwork to throw Gessler's former CFO under the bus:

[A] document signed by Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert gives different reasons, including that Lizotte abruptly left the office in December 2013 on sick leave without giving her staff any direction. Lizotte claims that she left because Gessler treated her "so aggressively that she became frightened and seriously ill" and that she did brief her staff on how to handle the meetings scheduled during her absence…

Ryan Moyle, who worked for Lizotte from April 2011 until he left the department in November 2013, says that it seemed to him that Lizotte was in over her head. "In my experience, we were doing a lot of her work," says Moyle, who was a budget analyst.

Moyle says he never saw Gessler mistreat Lizotte; instead, he was "supportive" and "patient" with her. However, Moyle recalls Lizotte saying things that made it clear she didn't see things the same way. "She would always make comments about how it was a boys' club and the men didn't respect her," Moyle says…

Deana Wiedemann, an account tech who worked under Lizotte for eight years, agrees. "It's been a rough road to work with her," Wiedemann says in a conversation facilitated by Gessler's office. "Nothing has been consistent with how she makes decisions."

Bottom line: we don't know Heather Lizotte. We don't know any of the people in the story above who question her performance in these downright ad hominem terms. We do know that Lizotte's employment with the Secretary of State's office predates Gessler's term, meaning she wasn't part of the team that Gessler brought in when he took office. And we know that Gessler was found by the IEC, with their judgment upheld in court, to have improperly spent his office's discretionary funds–which could quite reasonably upset his CFO. The Colorado Civil Rights Division, which is currently investigating, will eventually make a judgment. Until then, yesterday's story ends this way:

Laura Schwartz, one of Lizotte's attorneys, says that Lizotte disagrees with the statements made by the other employees but does not want to comment on them further. Adds Schwartz: "These people who are coming out against Heather are the very people who want to stay in touch with a powerful person. And Gessler is." [Pols emphasis]

Perhaps Gessler will be vindicated. But if he is not vindicated, these subsequent actions, marshaling current and former employees to smear this woman even as the investigation of her claims is underway, could turn out to be one of the very worst of "Honey Badger's" many misdeeds.

Tom Tancredo is His Own Consultant

Tom Tancredo with top consultant, Tom Tancredo

Tom Tancredo with top campaign consultant, Tom Tancredo (left or right, doesn’t matter).

The June 24th Primary Election may be pretty far in our collective rear-view mirrors, but Election Day doesn't mean that losing campaigns immediately shut down. There are bills left to pay, offices to mothball, rhetoric to file away, etc. And for losing campaigns, there is often cash left over to spend on…stuff. Occasionally, that "stuff" ends up back in the hands of the candidate.

After looking through campaign finance reports from losing campaigns filed in July and August, we found some interesting (if not particularly legal) expenditures. Republican Tom Tancredo's campaign for Governor, for example, lists a total of about 121 separate expenditures made to one "Thomas Tancredo," including out personal favorite, which was reported on June 30, 2014: Tom Tancredo's campaign paid Tom Tancredo $1,300 for "Consultant and Professional Services." 

We're assuming this wasn't considered a bonus for Tancredo's consulting advice that resulted in a Primary loss to Bob Beauprez. It is telling, however, that Beauprez had trouble dispatching a man in Tancredo who apparently wasn't overly interested in running a serious campaign for Governor.

All told, Tancredo's campaign paid Tom Tancredo about $10,501.99 in the year or so that he ran for Governor as a Republican. That's a lot of money to pay yourself for various items, though it pales in comparison to the money that 2010 Republican gubernatorial nominee Dan Maes somehow squirreled away.

If you're wondering, Tancredo is actually a bit of an outlier when it comes to odd expenditures. The campaign for Republican Scott Gessler wrote at least two separate checks to Scott Gessler for $3,468.38 for services described as "Other." On the other hand, Mike Kopp, the other losing GOP candidate for Governor, does not appear to have received any odd expenditure checks from his own campaign.

You can check out some of our more interesting campaign finance findings for Tancredo after the jump…

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