True the Vote promoting false information, possible intimidation, says Common Cause
In the final days before the November 6 election, two of the more controversial organizations working to prevent fraud and help enforce laws are spreading misinformation that could lead to voter intimidation throughout the state. That's the charge of Common Cause, an organization that's issued warnings about True the Vote (whose voter's guide, on view below, includes the illustration seen here) and Colorado Voter Protection.
Common Cause representatives say they are worried that these organizations are promoting false information that could create unnecessary conflict and even chaos at the polls.
Concerns about voter suppression or intimidation in Colorado, where the race will be decided by a tiny margin of voters, have been especially high this election season, centered on some of the initiatives of Secretary of State Scott Gessler, a Republican, who has worked to remove illegal voters from the rolls.
True the Vote is a conservative anti-fraud organization that has gotten some national attention for its efforts to scrutinize the validity of voter registration rolls and voters who appear at the polls. The group is said to be focused on swing states. (Gessler recently appeared at an event with True the Vote).
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Locally, a nonprofit organization called Colorado Voter Protection has been partnering with True the Vote and using some of its training tools in preparation for election day.
This week, Common Cause, a left-leaning advocacy group that has clashed with Gessler on different issues this election season, sent a letter to Gessler, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers and U.S. Attorney John Walsh, alerting them to what they are believe are a series of potentially harmful errors in True the Vote's "Colorado Poll Watcher Training" guide. The 47-page document, which says, "Advocate free and fair elections in 2012!" on its front page, features information for poll watchers.
The letter from Common Cause, also seen below, goes point-by-point through different rules and laws suggested in the pamphlet, arguing how the instructions are misleading and, in some cases, downright incorrect.
"It's a real concern that they are training their poll watchers with incorrect information about Colorado law," says Elena Nuñez, executive director of Colorado Common Cause. "We could see challenges that are not allowed in Colorado law that could create a threatening or intimidating environment at the polls."
Nuñez's letter, which includes ten different "corrections" needed for the True the Vote material, focuses on what rights voters have at the polls, and also what poll watchers are and aren't allowed to do.
One she sees as especially concerning appears in the "What to Watch For" section. It reads: "At the check-in area, watch to ensure that voters are presenting the ID required by your state law and that the Election Workers are checking the address on the ID against the address in the voter book/poll book/online record."
Nuñez's correction says: "With the limited exception of the documents listed in CRS §1-1-104(19.5)(VII), Colorado law is clear that there is no requirement that an address on a form of ID match the voter's address in the poll book."
She tells us many voters could have addresses on their licenses that don't match their current address -- if they moved, for example -- and that shouldn't block them from voting.
"You could potentially see voters turned away who are showing legitimate types of ID," she says. "It could create a really chaotic environment."
Nuñez says she is also worried about a line in the training guideline that says, "Election officials, voters, and qualified electors assisting disabled or non-English speaking voters may be present in the voting area," since, as she writes in her letter, "Any person who is assisting a voter with disabilities or a non-English speaking voter may be present in the voting areas, whether or not the person providing assistance is a 'qualified elector.'"
Another fact that jumped out to her "What to Watch For" section is one that says poll watchers should make sure that election workers are comparing signatures against the ID presented or against the voter book signatures on record.
She writes: "Nowhere does Colorado law require that a signature on a form of ID
produced at the polling place match any signature of the voter or that election
judges perform any sort of signature match at the polling place."
Continue for response from Colorado Voter Protection and for the full documents.