Scott Gessler's effort to weed out illegal voters finds four in Denver County
In the months leading up to the November election, Secretary of State Scott Gessler has devoted some of his resources to targeting immigrant voters who may be incorrectly registered -- an effort aimed at cleaning up voter rolls.
And the results in the state's largest city are likely to fuel criticism that the initiative is a misdirected effort: In Denver, the anti-fraud crusade found a total of four incorrectly registered voters who have since been removed.
Gessler, a Republican, has faced a great deal of backlash for this effort, with local advocacy groups arguing that it amounts to voter intimidation or suppression -- first with letters he sent to nearly 4,000 registered voters, asking that they prove they are legal citizens. Gessler's office later announced that it had identified 141 illegally registered voters as a part of its efforts and that in response, county clerks across the state would be working to challenge those individuals and remove them from voter rolls.
Of that 141, the Secretary of State sent the Denver County Clerk's office the names of 42 alleged non-citizens. The 141 names came from a federal database called the Systematic Alien Verification and Entitlements, or SAVE, which the Secretary of State's office was recently able to access. These are registered voters who are not citizens, according to the Department of Homeland Security -- though critics argue this data can be out of date or inaccurate.
Sam Levin Scott Gessler talking to reporters after a news conference earlier this month.
Last week, we chatted with Denver County Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson about a completely unrelated lawsuit she is bringing against Gessler, she informed us that of the 42 illegally registered voters sent her way, her office has removed four of them.
Those four were the result of a clerical error. Johnson explained that these individuals actually checked a box saying they are not citizens, which is supposed to lead to a cancellation in their status. But due to some kind of system error, their registrations were not initially canceled and they were put into the system. They have since been removed even though they've never voted, a Johnson representative said.
Rich Coolidge, a spokesman for Gessler, says his office has heard that other county clerks have discovered similar kinds of system errors, though, at this time, the Secretary of State doesn't yet have an official count on how many of the 141 voters have been officially removed from voter rolls.
The other 38 voters in Denver checked out and are eligible to vote in November, Johnson said.
"Like anyone, we want to make sure we have the cleanest voter registration rolls that we can," said Johnson, a Democrat, who has clashed with Gessler on a number of issues. She declines to offer any more broad response or criticism of Gessler's overall efforts against fraud, but points out that four is a small number relative to the hundreds of thousands of total voters in her county.
She's right. The Secretary of State's office lists 460,343 registered voters, including active and inactive voters. In Denver, that means information from this federal database has resulted in .00087 percent of voters actually being removed from the voter rolls.
Still, Johnson says, "I don't want to have anyone that's not eligible to vote on my voter registration rolls."
Continue reading for response from Gessler's office.