Scott Gessler calls effort to remove 300 more from voter rolls "good government"
Though Colorado residents have already begun voting, Secretary of State Scott Gessler says it's not too late for officials across the state to work together to try and remove potential non-citizens from the voter rolls. Two days after early voting began, he announced that a new round of checks has revealed 300 individuals who he believes are illegally registered. His critics see this tack as a new level of intimidation given the timing, but in an interview, Gessler says it's just good government.
As we reported earlier this month, Gessler's office has been working with a federal immigration database to run checks on thousands of registered voters who he believes aren't citizens, and thus are illegally signed up to vote. This effort was the second round of checks his office has done, following a first batch over the summer that found 141 individuals who, at least according to federal records, aren't citizens but are registered to vote.
His work to weed out immigrant voters -- a part of Gessler's stated agenda to prevent fraud -- began with a letter his office sent out in August to nearly 4,000 registered voters asking them to prove they are citizens or voluntarily remove themselves.
Sam Levin Scott Gessler promoting his registration ad campaign earlier this month.
He identified these voters because they had at some point presented proof of non-citizenship, such as a green card, at the Division of Motor Vehicles. He announced weeks later that 482 successfully affirmed their citizenship and sixteen voluntarily withdrew.
His office was also given access to a Department of Homeland Security database called the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements, or SAVE, and was able to cross-check 1,416 of those individuals to see if they were listed as non-citizens.
At the time, Gessler's office was only able to run those 1,416 names, because the individuals had "alien identification numbers" on file with the DMV. Gessler's spokesman recently told us that his office could run about 2,400 more names, because staffers were eventually able to locate alien identification numbers for them, too. Fourteen of the 141 flagged in the first round have actually been removed -- and none have a record of voting.
This week, Gessler's office announced results of the second round, first reported by the Associated Press.
In the official news release, Gessler's office said the federal government has confirmed that 300 more Colorado voters aren't citizens. Added to the 141 flagged in the first round, Gessler says his office has identified a total of 441 non-citizens through SAVE. The Secretary of State has notified county clerks, sending the names to them for follow-up hearings. He has also sent a letter directly to those voters (see it below) explaining how they can verify their citizenship or remove themselves from voter rolls.
On top of that, Gessler forwarded the non-citizen names to Colorado's United States Attorney, John Walsh. Gessler's letter to Walsh on the subject is also below in its entirety, but here's an excerpt:
Due to the short notice, many of these individuals will appear on the pollbooks, and some may have already received a mail ballot. Obviously I am hopeful that only citizens cast ballots in this upcoming election, and we will continue to monitor this election, including the clerks' efforts. If, in fact, any of the non-citizens (identified by SAVE) cast ballots, we anticipate asking you to investigate possible criminal violations.Gessler understands the timing is not good, but notes that his office wasn't given access to the SAVE database until very recently. That's made it difficult for his team to do a thorough job of cleaning up the voter rolls.
"It's not optimal, by any stretch," he tells us, adding, "It just took forever [to get approval to use SAVE].... We sort of have to work our way through these processes.... I had hoped that we could do it a lot earlier.... This is the very best we can do under these circumstances."
County clerks who receive the names can initiate challenge procedures, but there isn't legally enough time do that before election day. Election judges or any individuals can also challenge voters at the polls.
Continue for more from our interview with Gessler and a response from the ACLU.