View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Wednesday, September 29, 2004

A Chat With the Secretary of State's Office 

Lisa Doran, the spokesman for the Colorado Secretary of State's office, must have been happy to have to call me back. Sounding like she'd been to Cambodia and back, she took about 30 minutes of her fairly valuable time to walk me through some of the issues involved, and some of the things we can do even up until Election Day. There's a holiday coming up in a few minutes, but I'll do the best I can.

There is a form for challenging the right of another citizen to vote, and that right to challenge is something that it available to all residents of Colorado. Of course, for regular, non-provisional ballots, it won't do any actual good, since the charge is basically one of criminal fraud, and dealt with after the election is over. There's no way of setting that vote aside.

Something that Susan Greene failed to point out in her story is that, while there's no history of widespread, systemic voter fraud in Colorado, Arapahoe, Adams, and Mesa Counties, at least, have seen substantiated fraud charges in the past. It's not unheard of. I don't have time to dig up the specific legal cases involved, but perhaps someone out there does.

Colorado appears to be ahead of other states in that there is a centralized, state-wide voter roll that is returned to the counties each month. Although there's no way for the SOS to enforce this, counties are encouraged to cull their voter rolls should the state locate duplicates. Problem: the only required registration information is Name, Address, and DOB. If someone's registered in more than one county, the state will try to peg it down using name and SSN, or name and birthdate. But they can only advise counties to look into specific names. In additin, given the manual nature of the voter registration process, this list can be several months out of date.

The last of these lists will come out sometime in mid-October, which will almost certainly not be enough time for the larger counties to run through their problem cases.

Representative Fairbank's law, which prevents voters who have reqested absentee ballots from voting provisionally. Ms. Greene never mentions in her article that this law is in response to actual cases documented by county election officials.

So, what can you do? First, go to the meeting tomorrow. Ten o'clock to 12:00 at the Denver Post building downtown. Take the bus if you want, it's right across the street from the main bus terminal. If you do go, go prepared. Here are the rules that are up for comment. (PDF) Read them, print them out, mark them up. Understand that the SOS's office is trying to act as the last line of defense in a system where they have no control over registration rules. They can only counter those leaky rules by being tough on their end.

Second, volunteer to be a poll judge. It doesn't pay very well, only from about $75 to $125 for a long day's work, but it's a civic service opportunity. The voter rolls will note those people who haven't provided any identifying information beyond the minimum. If the Common Cause suit succeeds, it might be worth keeping a count (not names), of those voters who don't present id.

Finally, be a party poll watcher. This used to be primarily a GOTV operation, where the poll watchers would call party members who hadn't yet voted. But it looks like it's going to evolve into a fraud/disenfranchisement role. You can stay all they way through the counting, if you want. Do it.

Also, counties can start counting absentee ballots 10 days before the election, and have until 12 days after the election to finish absentee and provisional counting. Parties get poll watchers there, too.

Right up until Election Day, people are dropping out, unable to be judges or watchers, so call up and volunteer. They'll provide the training, and you can help keep an eye on things.

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