Scott Gessler pushes new bill that would allow him to remove non-citizen voters from the rolls
This week in print, we take an in-depth look at Secretary of State Scott Gessler, who has faced ongoing accusations of suppressing voters.
We published the story the same day that Republican lawmakers at the start of the new legislative session put forth a bill they crafted with Gessler that would allow his office to directly remove voters who he believes aren't American citizens. The full bill is on view below.
As we've reported, Gessler -- the state's chief election officer and a Republican who has gotten a great deal of attention not typical of his office -- made it a priority from the beginning of his term to proactively pursue voter fraud.
In print, we detail the various steps Gessler and his staff have taken as part of the anti-fraud project, including cross checks with state and federal databases to identify immigrants who are incorrectly registered to vote. Twice, he sent large groups of suspected non-citizens letters asking them to prove their citizenship or remove themselves. Their names were also sent their names to county clerks.
Voter rights groups and left-leaning critics have consistently slammed these efforts as a wild goose chase and one that has the potential to intimidate or disenfranchise legal voters; Gessler says he is simply addressing registration loopholes -- making elections cleaner and voter rolls more accurate.
Sam Levin Secretary of State Scott Gessler
Since he stepped into office, a total of 518 registrations were cancelled because those listed aren't citizens. Gessler has repeatedly emphasized that he has not directly removed any voters.
That could change going forward, though, if the Secretary's new legislative effort is successful.
"What we're trying to do is seek express authority to be able to remove non-citizens," says Gessler spokesman Rich Coolidge.
House Bill 13-1050, on view below, has sponsorship from Republican Representatives Lori Saine and Chris Holbert in the House and Kevin Grantham in the Senate.
Gessler's office and election officials across the state maintain the voter rolls and currently are able to remove ineligible voters who have died or are felons. Non-citizens also aren't allowed to vote or be on the rolls, but Coolidge says there is a lack of clarity in terms of how the Secretary of State's office can handle these voters.
"What this does is give us the...authority in the law to be able to [remove non-citizens]," he says.
Saine, who is sponsoring this bill as her first of the session, says the idea is a no-brainer.
"The integrity of our elections is such a nonpartisan issue," she says. "The General Assembly is constitutionally obligated to pass laws that secure the purity of elections."
She continues, "It's an issue of fairness on many, many levels.... For immigrants, the very objective and goal to become citizens is permanently damaged when they register to vote."
Saine is echoing a common refrain of Gessler, who says that in preventing fraud, he is not only making the elections more fair, but he is also doing a service to immigrants who, due to loopholes in the system, may accidentally register. If they do ultimately vote, it is against the law and can hurt them when they are trying to become citizens. As proof of this problem, Gessler's office has shared with us numerous letters from confused immigrants asking to be removed from the rolls.
Saine says if even one person illegally votes, it diminishes the integrity of the whole process. "We want to make sure every vote counts."
Continue for more details on the bill and response from Colorado Common Cause.