View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Registration Requirements 

For those of you (you know who you are) who think I'm nuts for worrying about voter registration, I called around to a number of the county elections officials this morning, and the results were, to say the least, not particularly encouraging.

I spoke to elections officials in Denver, Jefferson County, Boulder, El Paso (home of Colorado Springs), and La Plata, in the southwestern part of the state.

I was particularly interested in what measures the counties took to validate in the information that was presented on the registrations forms, specifically the address information. Most of the time, the answer to that was, "none." Neither Denver nor Jefferson (which has seen the highest number or new registrants), makes any effort to check the validity of the addresses.

Most counties have computer programs which make sure that the addresses exist and are in their county. But only Boulder actually seems to make a records search to see if people are actually living where they say they are.

In theory, the voters are required to give the last four digits of their Social Security Number or their Driver's License number on their application. But according to the lady with Jefferson County (who was extremely generous with her time), even if that information isn't provided, the counties are required by law to register the applicant, as long as they provide a signed piece of paper with their name, address, and birthdate.

One method of detecting fraud is the USPS. Since new voters get voter registration cards by mail, cards that come back as undeliverable are evidence of false information. This doesn't preclude people from using similar names or variant spellings of the same name, at the same address. Once again, these "people" have to be registered by law.

Counties do make some effort to make sure that people aren't already registered there, but the concern isn't so much that the same person votes twice in the same place under his own name, so much as that the same person votes repeatedly under different names.

Jefferson County also noted that the Secretary of State's office sends out monthly updates to the counties, to try to control registration in multiple counties. She did admit that because of timing issues, there might be either no update between October 4 and the election, or that there might be insufficient time to check the rolls.

There simple seems to be a remarkable amount of trust in the system. Repeatedly, elections officials pointed out to me that the voter was reminded on the signature line that knowingly filing a false form was fraudulent and criminal. Their touching faith in human nature aside, there's no way of going back and taking out fraudulent ballots since, by definition and design, we don't know how people vote.

Later - ID at the voting booth. What's required, and what Common Cause and the Bighorn Center want set aside.

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