Election officials in Boulder, Colorado have received a rush of requests from individuals seeking to cancel their voter registration, as the Colorado Independent first reported. Over the course of the past week, “the office has seen 270 of its voters cancel their registration,” although 70 did seek “confidential status,” which would allow them to stay registered while keeping their information secret.
This rush of cancellations isn’t limited to Boulder. In Arapahoe County, about 150 voters unregistered in the last week. In Denver, 180 voters canceled on a single day. As one voting official told the Independent, “in over 12 years of administering elections I never expected to see a day in the office where we would have more withdrawals than new registrations.”
The inspiration for this unusual rash of requests appears to be a letter sent by Kris Kobach, Kansas’ secretary of state, vice-chair of the “Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity,” and a leading voice in favor of many voter suppression techniques.
Among other things, Kobach’s letter asks states to turn over all “publicly available voter roll data,” including “the full first and last names of all registrants, middle names or initials if available, addresses, dates of birth, political party (if recorded in your state), last four digits of social security number if available, voter history (elections voted in) from 2006 onward, active/inactive status, cancelled status, information regarding any felony convictions, information regarding voter registration in another state, information regarding military status, and overseas citizen information.”
At least 44 states have refused to turn over some or all of this information, but Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams (R) intends to turn over much of it — including voters’ full names, addresses, party affiliation, phone number, birth year, and voting history.
The de-registering voters are apparently doing so to prevent the Trump administration from getting its hands on this information.
The Independent does report than many of these voters plan to re-register after July 14, when Williams is expected to turn over the data to Kobach. But the fact remains that these voters are creating an obstacle to their own ability to cast a ballot in the future. And, as the population of newly unregistered voters appears to be motivated by distrust of Trump, every voter who fails to re-register is likely to be one less vote for Trump’s opponent in 2020.
Even though the end result isn’t likely to be a massive earthquake that fundamentally changes the balance of power in Colorado — in reality, it might result in dozens, hundreds, or maybe a few thousand fewer Democratic votes in future elections — even a tiny number of disenfranchised voters can change the course of history.
In 2000, the Florida’s official vote tally gave Gov. George W. Bush just 537 more votes than Vice President Al Gore — but that was enough to place Bush in the White House, admittedly with an assist from the Supreme Court and the anti-democratic Electoral College.
Indeed, nickle-and-dime voter disenfranchisement appears to have been a major prong of the GOP’s electoral strategy for quite some time now. In 1998, for example, Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris (R) hired a company to create a “scrub list” that was used to purge voter rolls. By one estimate, 7,000 voters were wrongfully removed from the state’s voter roles by the 2000 election. That’s only a tiny fraction of the nearly 6 million Floridians who cast a ballot in 2000, but it was 13 times Bush’s official margin of victory.
Similarly, while estimates vary on just how much voter ID laws skew elections in favor of Republicans, the most alarmist studies have not stood up well against scrutiny. Such laws most likely nudge electoral results to the right, rather than shoving them off a cliff.
But in a political environment when the next president could be chosen by a few thousand voters in a handful of states, that could easily be enough to change the result.