On Tuesday, Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler increased his efforts to purge Colorado’s voter rolls. Gessler sent a letter, backed by Colorado Attorney General John Suthers and elections officials in 11 other states, requesting that Department of Homeland Security help verify the citizenship of 5,000 registered voters, and threatening to sue if they do not.
Instead of learning from Florida’s wildly inaccurate voter purge attempt, which managed to target two World War II veterans and incite lawsuits by the Justice Department and civil rights groups, Colorado appears to be determined to pursue a voter purge policy that could disenfranchise eligible voters.
The letter lists nine secretaries of states and two lieutenant governors (who serve as the top elections officials in their states) who Gessler says “share this approach and expect to request” similar agreements with DHS. They are from Ohio and Iowa — both, like Colorado, battleground states in this fall’s presidential race — as well as Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Michigan, Kansas, Georgia, Arkansas, Washington, and Alaska. Like Gessler and Suthers, all of them are Republicans.
Opponents of Gessler’s efforts say they amount to voter intimidation and could keep eligible voters — particularly Latinos, who are expected to play a big role in deciding the election in states such as Colorado — from going to the polls. Those voters lean heavily Democratic.
Critics also say trying to compare federal and state databases could lead to errors in matching names and citizenship information — resulting in some voters improperly losing their Constitutional right to cast a ballot — and that the problem is not nearly big or serious enough to make that risk worthwhile.
Indeed, even though voter fraud is less likely to occur than getting hit by lightning, Gessler insists that voter rolls need to be scrubbed of non-citizens. The best evidence of voter fraud that Gessler can point to is non-citizens voluntarily pointing out that they erroneously registered to vote.
Gessler acknowledges he doesn’t have a stack of confirmed cases of voter fraud, but he points to 430 cases where non-citizens self-identified their presence on the voting rolls and asked to be removed.
Letters provided by Gessler’s office and reviewed by 9NEWS show non-citizens apologizing, often in broken English, for mistakenly ending up on the voting rolls when they registered for a driver’s license as a resident alien.
Analysis of efforts aimed at dealing with the non-existent problem of voter fraud, including voter purges, ID requirements, and new registration restrictions, shows that they disenfranchise eligible voters and that they disproportionately affect young, minority, elderly, and low-income voters, as well as on voters with disabilities. Because these voters are more likely to vote democratically, the efforts result in shifting the electorate to the right.