On One Hand

October 3, 2008

Voter Disenfranchisement Heats Up in Colorado

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 9:38 pm

Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman continues to play “gotcha” games with Colorado’s voters, refusing to register them if they incorrectly filled out a confusing portion of the registration form.

In Denver county alone, the clerk reports having over 3,000 forms on file that cannot be counted according to Secretary of State Mike Coffman’s mid-September memo that voters who used their social security number to register can’t be entered into the system if they didn’t check a box on the form stating that they do not have a Colorado driver’s liscense. Denver county contains ten percent of the state, and as many new registrations came from nearby Adams or Arapahoe counties.

Furthermore, it’s now my understanding that Coffman has ordered registration records already entered into the system to be purged if the registration form was incorrect, meaning that voters who already checked their registration status with their county clerk and were reassured that everything went through OK can now be de-registered and prevented from voting on election day.

Counties are required by state law to conduct a “good faith” effort to notify voters if they find problems on the form when they register them. But in some counties, like Republican stronghold El Paso county, where the Obama campaign and other groups helped to register tens of thousands of students and low-income people hoping to decrease Republican margins, the clerk is sitting on 25,000 forms and says he will not process them until after the registration deadline on Monday. That makes it impossible to assist those with improperly filled forms to vote, since they cannot fill out a new form or correct the record after the deadline.

A colorado vote-watch organization has filed an injunction with the state to require all such forms to count if the clerk can obtain all the necessary information to identify the voter in what is written on the form. Essentially, the “I do not have a drivers’ liscense” box has nothing to do with verifying identity, so should not be used to purge a voter’s registration if it is improperly filled out.

The groups have also sent a letter to each county clerk saying threatening to sue if Coffman’s memo is followed.

Here are a few questions I would ask of Mike Coffman or any county clerk planning to disenfranchize tends or hundreds of thousands of Colorado voters with this method:

1) If the purpose of the identification number section of the registration from is to assure identity and prevent voter fraud, then why dis-count forms when the error they made (failing to check a box) has nothing to do with certifying a voter’s identity?

2) If the check-box indicating that the voter has no driver’s liscense is so vital that it is worth preventing that person from being registered if he or she does not submit a new form, THEN WHY DID THE SECRETARY OF STATE WAIT UNTIL THREE WEEKS BEFORE THE DEADLINE TO ISSUE THE MEMO ORDERING THAT ALL SUCH FORMS BE DIS-COUNTED, giving concerned groups or the voters’ themselves so little time to correct the error?

3) The Republican Secretary of State endorses John McCain for president and is himself running for the U.S. Congress in Colorado’s sixth district. Doesn’t this decision to refuse the registration’s of thousands of voters represent a conflict of interest, especially considering that the vast majority of those who do not have a driver’s lisense are low-income or young voters who would likely vote against Coffman?

4) Counties are required by state law to make a good-faith effort to contact voters if they cannot be registered because their form is incorrect. Yet when we do follow-ups with people we help register, we find that many of them were not added to the voter lists and NOT A SINGLE ONE OF THEM WAS CONTACTED BY THE COUNTY. Other counties led by Secretary of State Mike Coffman’s political allies are refusing to process forms until AFTER it is too late to make corrections. Why is the Secretary of State so adamnant about the check-box rule but not concerned at all with ensuring that voters are contacted before the deadline.

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