Scott Gessler's office running checks on thousands of more potential non-citizens
The first round of 1,416 turned up 141 that, according to the federal database, were non-citizens but were still registered to vote. At the time, Gessler said that 35 of those individuals had illegally voted in past elections, thus bolstering his argument about serious cases of fraud his initiative is preventing.
Gessler, however, has repeatedly complained that the federal government dragged its feet in giving his office access to the database. When he identified those 141 individuals, the best his office could do to prevent them from voting was send the names to county clerks with instructions on how to challenge them. It is this step that ultimately led to fourteen, or around 10 percent of the total, being removed. (The 141 identified were 10 percent of the original 1,416 that they ran through the system). Gessler's office maintains that there is no way to confirm that the others are actually legal, given that, according to the federal government, they are not.
Sam Levin Scott Gessler promoting his registration ad campaign.
Still, some county officials, like Debra Johnson, the clerk and recorder of Denver -- who removed four voters -- maintain that the others have checked out and should be allowed to vote.
Upon getting the latest results, Coolidge says the Secretary of State's office will likely launch a similar process of notifying county clerks of the voters who don't check out as legal citizens. Given that registration is closed and there are 25 days until the election, it's unclear how many more could be challenged and removed -- depending on how many actual alleged non-citizens the SAVE system finds in this next batch.
Gessler's critics say they're not opposed to stopping voter fraud, but that, but they feel this mission has become too much of a focus for the state's chief election officer, especially given that such a tiny percentage of voters have been removed.
"This is just another example of a misplaced priority of the Secretary of State's office," says Luis Toro, director of Ethics Watch, a group that has frequently criticized Gessler. "He has devoted so many resources to this wild goose chase while ignoring basic functions of his office."
Toro points to a recent glitch in Gessler's mobile-optimized registration site, which led to nearly 800 voters who thought they registered not actually being put into the system. He also points to website malfunctions earlier this week, on the final day of registration.
"Obviously, he's not made it easier to vote," Toro says.
Gessler said those problems were handled quickly. His frequently repeated claim is that he wants to make it easy to vote and tough to cheat -- and he defends against criticisms by pointing to his expensive voter registration campaign, which he says helped the state register a record number of voters.
Gessler explained to us his motivation behind the anti-fraud effort earlier this week. In that interview, he also said of his critics, "These guys are as willfully ignorant as it gets. I have spent on this ad here $850,000. No one in the history of Colorado has ever done anything even close to that. They say I'm making it harder for people to register to vote. What I'm doing is encouraging people to register to vote.... What our office has done has been very successful."
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