Friday, August 16, 2013

Fact checking Friday's Gazette editorial

Posted By on Fri, Aug 16, 2013 at 3:31 PM

click to enlarge John Morse: The Gazette's favorite target, these days.
  • John Morse: The Gazette's favorite target, these days.
The Gazette continues to show absolute disregard for the facts when it comes to the recall election.

Today's editorial is particularly egregious because it trots out an online conspiracy theory that we at the Independent have already debunked. Interestingly, so has fiercely Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler.

Apparently, that hasn't prevented El Paso County Clerk Wayne Williams from trotting out misleading information, or the Gazette from eagerly printing it without checking the facts. Today's piece focused on a practice that has been derogatorily called "gypsy voting." The theory is that under new election laws, which recall-challenged Senate President John Morse helped pass, anyone can simply claim they are moving to our area and vote at the polls without facing any consequences for lying.

If such a glitch existed, either party could take advantage of it by encouraging illegal voters to head to the polls. But the Gazette suggests only Democrats would take advantage of it, as noted here:

The unconstitutional election law rushed through the Legislature by Senate President John Morse may facilitate supporters from outside his district in voting against the politician's recall.

In fact, the editorial — and Williams — goes so far as to claim that the Democrats, or another impassioned group, may have covert plans to organize troops of homeless people to vote illegally.

They could pay transients from any community, with cash or food, to board buses or vans and travel to a polling center in Senate District 11. Each voter could claim "the intention of making" District 11 a permanent home and vote as instructed. Those willing to make up names and four final digits of a Social Security number can vote repeatedly throughout the day. Williams said nothing in the system would stop them.

Wow. What's next, Gazette? Tin foil hats?

Here's the truth: The Democrats have told us they completely oppose voter fraud, and assume Republicans hold the same values. (The Colorado Republican Party didn't return our phone call seeking comment, but we trust they don't condone lawbreaking.) Voter fraud was illegal — a felony to be specific — before the new election law. That hasn't changed.

Per Williams' own office, its' never been possible to turn someone away from voting just because it's suspected they may be voting fraudulently. But there are ways for clerks to look for signs of voter fraud. Any votes that are questionable are passed onto the district attorney for investigation and prosecution. In fact, the DA is currently dispensing justice on one person who tried to cheat the system in 2012.

That said, voter fraud is extremely rare in Colorado.

We debunked so-called 'gypsy voting' in detail on August 7. You can read the article here. Gessler's office, in an e-mail to Williams, also debunked the conspiracy theory. Here's the e-mail (with emphasis added):



From: Troy Bratton [mailto:Troy.Bratton@SOS.STATE.CO.US]
Sent: Thursday, August 01, 2013 12:42 PM
To: Wayne Williams
Cc: Scott Gessler; Suzanne Staiert
Subject: "Gypsy" voting


Clerk Williams,

Per the Secretary’s request, I’m forwarding you the statutes and rules that prevent gypsy voting.

· When registering in person, the elector must provide his or her residence and affirm that the information is correct.

o Section 1-2-204 (1) (a), C.R.S., requires the county clerk to ask an applicant “Whether the elector intends to claim the elector's present address as the elector's sole legal place of residence and, in so doing, to abandon claim to any other legal residence.”

o Paragraph (2) (b) of that same section requires the applicant to give his or her place of residence, and paragraph (l) requires the applicant to affirm his or her answers.

o Subsection (3) (a) of that section states that “If the county clerk and recorder has reasonable cause to believe that an applicant has falsified any answers to the questions set forth in this section, the county clerk and recorder shall certify the same to the district attorney for investigation and appropriate action.”

· When registering via paper application, an applicant must provide his or her residence address and sign the affirmation on the form.

o Section 1-2-205 (1), C.R.S., requires the applicant to swear that the information provided on the form is true. Because an applicant has to provide his or her address, the applicant is attesting to the accuracy of the information.

· When changing his or her address, the registered elector must state, under penalty of perjury, that the elector lives at his or her new address.

o Section 1-2-216 (4) (a), C.R.S., states: “Any eligible elector may complete a change of address form stating, under penalty of perjury, that the elector moved before the election and that, on the day of the election, the elector will be living at the new address in the new precinct.”

· It is a class 6 felony to provide false residency information.

o Section 1-2-228, C.R.S., states: Any person who votes by knowingly giving false information regarding the elector's place of present residence commits a class 6 felony and shall be punished as provided in section 18-1.3-401, C.R.S.

· A new election rule requires the clerk to use the date provided by the applicant as the date the applicant moved and an applicant could not provide a date past election day.

o New Rule 2.26.1 states: THE COUNTY CLERK AND RECORDER MUST ENTER THE DATE PROVIDED BY THE
ELECTOR IN THE REGISTRATION RECORD MAINTAINED IN THE STATEWIDE VOTER REGISTRATION SYSTEM.

o New Rule 2.26.2 states: IF THE ELECTOR SUBMITS AN APPLICATION AND DOES NOT INCLUDE THE DATE HE OR SHE MOVED, THE COUNTY CLERK MUST ENTER THE DATE THE APPLICATION IS RECEIVED OR POSTMARKED, WHICHEVER IS EARLIER, AS THE DATE MOVED. BUT IF THE ELECTOR SUBMITS THE APPLICATION DURING THE 22 DAYS BEFORE AN ELECTION AND DOES NOT PROVIDE THE DATE HE OR SHE MOVED, THE COUNTY CLERK MUST ENTER THE DATE MOVED AS THE 22ND DAY BEFORE THE ELECTION BASED UPON THE AFFIDAVIT.


In sum, these sections require an applicant to provide his or her current address and affirm under penalty of perjury that it is correct. The statutes also allow a clerk to forward the information to the DA if the clerk believes the applicant is providing false information. Further, a new election rule requires an elector to provide the date he or she moved, which could never be a date after election day.

As a final note, it is worth pointing out paragraph (f) above (the paragraph that has the clerks so concerned) starts with the words “If a person moves…” Thus, the words that follow in that paragraph can only be triggered by a person who actually moves. The “intention” language is only relevant after the elector moved.


_______________________________________
Troy Bratton
Legal and Policy Manager
Colorado Secretary of State’s Office
1700 Broadway, Suite 200
Denver, Colorado 80290
(303) 869-4904
troy.bratton@sos.state.co.us

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