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That's not the only envelope Gessler has pushed.

In March 2011, two months after he was sworn in as Colorado Secretary of State, Scott Gessler announced that his office had compared the state's voter-registration database with driver's-license records at the Division of Motor Vehicles to determine whether it included immigrants who'd signed up to vote illegally. In Colorado, non-citizens who get driver's licenses or state IDs must prove lawful presence by showing valid immigration documents, such as a work permit or a permanent resident card. Gessler reported that there were 11,805 individuals who had used such credentials at the DMV and were also registered to vote. He was one of the first election officials across the country to conduct such a search — and that remains a source of pride for him.

It remains a source of irritation for his critics. At best, they said, the search was a wild goose chase that ran counter to the office's duty to encourage voter participation. And at worst, they charged, it was a thinly veiled witch hunt tied to a national agenda to marginalize minorities and Democratic voters.

And although the number of potentially fraudulent voters has continued to shrink over the past 21 months, Gessler says he has continued to expose serious loopholes and save immigrant voters from accidental crimes. "We are actually helping people who are non-citizens, because if they vote, they are in deep trouble," he explains. "The evidence that we've seen so far shows that a lot of people are in this position through ignorance of the law." As evidence of this, his office has presented several letters and requests from immigrants who mistakenly registered to vote, asking to be removed. In some cases, immigrants checked "no" under the citizenship box but registered anyway.

Gessler insists that he has simply been going where the data takes him, without expectations and with absolutely no intention of targeting any groups.

On the basis of that data, in 2011 Gessler pushed a bill that would have given him the authority to contact those nearly 12,000 alleged non-citizens and remove the ones that his office determined were not supposed to be on the voter rolls. The bill failed. That session, Gessler also supported a voter-ID bill, similar to controversial ones making headlines in other states, but that measure failed, too.

Next, Gessler turned to the Department of Homeland Security for immigration records — another opportunity to identify illegal voters, he said. But by August 2012, over a year later, he still didn't have access to the federal data he wanted. So he sent letters to those he believed were illegally registered anyway. By then, the 12,000 or so potential non-citizens originally identified through the DMV had shrunk to 3,903; his staff says this was due to duplication errors in the first round of checks.

On August 15, Gessler asked these nearly 4,000 registered voters to prove they were citizens.

The ACLU, Colorado Common Cause, Ethics Watch and a number of other groups immediately went on the offensive. It was very plausible that someone who had showed a non-citizen record to the DMV at some point could now be a legal citizen, they said, adding that the letters would scare rightful voters.

"They are intimidating people to not bother voting," says Samantha Meiring, who was born in South Africa, moved to the U.S. in 2000 and received the letter. "I do think there is a bit of a partisan bias to it. Immigrants largely tend to vote Democratic or not Republican. Why are they targeting this particular group?"

Gessler insists that the letters were in no way intimidating, adding that those who received them merely had to offer proof if they'd since become citizens. And his staff has repeatedly said that there was no partisan motive behind the effort.

But that doesn't mean there weren't trends along party lines. Of the 3,903 voters ultimately flagged, 1,794 were unaffiliated, 1,566 were Democrats and only 486 were Republicans. That statistic fueled the fire of his opponents.

"It has nothing to do with voter fraud," says Eliseo Medina, secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union. "It has more to do with politics and how to control who votes and who doesn't for partisan gain."

At the end of the summer, Gessler finally got access to the Department of Homeland Security's immigration records that fall under what's called the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements, or SAVE, program. His team found a total of 141 voters who were registered to vote but were actually immigrants, based on those federal records. Of these, Gessler said, 35 had voted in past elections and thus likely had committed fraud. Gessler's critics pointed out that 35 people amounted to about .001 percent of voters in this state — and in any case, federal officials confirm that when someone becomes a citizen, there can be a lag time in the records.

Alan Kaplan, 35 and an immigration advocate, got a letter from Gessler's office just a few weeks before election day.

Kaplan is a legal citizen and has been since 2001. Originally from Belarus, a part of the former Soviet Union, he became a citizen in 2001 through "derived citizenship," which means he was underage when his parents became citizens and was able to change his status when they got their papers. "When I got this letter, it got me thinking...not about me, per se, but about people like my grandmother, who I have to drag to vote every year," Kaplan says. "If she got a letter like this, it would not only stop her from voting this year, it would stop her from voting forever."

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13 comments
Spectrewriter
Spectrewriter

A few days ago, I received a notice from the Colorado Secretary of State's office:

Business filing fee holiday extended through February
$1 business filing fees conclude Feb. 28

Denver, Colo. – Today, Secretary of State Scott Gessler announced the fee holiday for all online business filings and notaries public applications will continue through the end of February. Beginning March 1, these filings will revert to their previous rate or lower, while the non-profit fee holiday remains in place.

It seems pretty clear that ALL ONLINE BUSINESS FILINGS has no caveats. Yet when I went to file one such form, a Cure of Delinquency (for having missed filing a form that says "Yes, this is our address) they hit me up for $60. A phone call yielded a bunch of moralizing about how the fee holiday is for people who are law-abiding and pay their fees on time. I hold that "ALL" still means all, and they should keep to their word. They don't want to budge. 

What do you say?

Care to weigh in personally, Scott Gessler?

shawnyocumalford1
shawnyocumalford1

A few years ago a Colorado Springs County Commissioner (Jim Bensberg-R.) was observed with a stack of Colorado Springs papers-"The Independent." A camera in the County Building provided the coverage of the event. Bensberg said he was going to "distribute" them. "The Independent" covered the story.

This is from The Independent's archive:

"I could see the difference when [Jim Bensberg] walked to the right and then to the left, that he had something in his arms. You can make up your mind what it is -- I'm not going to rat out the commissioner."

-- El Paso County's director of security, Don Johnson, after reviewing a videotape that showed Bensberg appearing to pick up a stack of Independent newspapers that included coverage of his activities in the harassment investigation (described above). This year the Legislature enacted a bill making it illegal to steal free newspapers; however the law had not yet gone into effect.

carlosmartinez256
carlosmartinez256

Typical Liberal tactic.  Any conservative that is a threat to their liberal Utopia must be destroyed.  If not at the ballot box through frivolous criminal and ethical allegations.  I would urge Gessler not to back down and let these tactics work.  Their efforts to intimidate and silence opposition must fail.  Hopefully the legal defense will be allowed as the legal fees from fighting all these frivolous allegations will naturally discourage good people from running for office.  Keep up the good work Gessler!

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

Is this the Westword or Gesslerword ? Most often, it's nearly impossible to tell . The WW covers Gessler like the Denver Post sports section,  does with Manning .....

madmemere
madmemere

And I'm just going to suggest that all the Gessler "bashers" are registered "dimwits" - -we seem to have an over abundance of those misplaced libtards around these parts!  Frankly, it would be refreshing to hear from a few "patriotic Americans", instead of a bunch of obama-soetoro azzwipes!

Mugento
Mugento

This article failed to mention one of Gessler's more notorious acts as SOS. The Larimer County Republicans were slapped with a $50,000 fine for campaign finance violations ($90k in donations that were not reported - not an accidental oversight). Gessler did his buddies a solid and reduced the fine by a whopping 68% then, just to show that there were no hard feelings, he went up to Larimer County and did a fundraiser to help them pay the fine. Once this deed was done, Gessler lost any shred of credibility that he might have had as a supposedly non-partisan official. Now he wants us to pay for him to attend Republican events? I would buy the line that he was there in an official capacity if he also attended the DNC and Democratic National Lawyers Association meetings, but I am going to guess that is not the case. Seriously, we can do better than this guy.

carlosmartinez256
carlosmartinez256

This blows my mind.  Bill Clinton committs Perjury.  Ted Kennedy murder.  But it's all good, since they are liberal.  This man trys enforce the law and make sure voters are, heaven forbid, citizens and "Ethics Watch"  trys to prosecute him for flying home to protect his family amid death threats?!  That's absolutely absurd but unfortunately typical of liberals.  It isn't enough to win most of the election, you than have to try to prosecute any other politician that doesn't fall in line with your left wing agenda.  No wonder many good people don't want to run for office anymore.  It really is sad.

patricia.calhoun
patricia.calhoun moderator editortopcommenter

I'd love to publish comments about this story as letters to the editor in our print edition -- ideally with the author's full name. If that's okay, e-mail me at patricia.calhoun@westword.com

michaeljlop
michaeljlop

Weasaller is  nothing more than a republican american taliban domestic terrorist with double standards,  suck KOCH and cater to the rich and fuck the poor!  LET THEM DIE MENTALITY

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

Gessler = another corrupt cowardly Repuglykan scumbag

TedBahre
TedBahre

Gessler has selective backbone. When administrative people at a center for developmentally disabled people were found buying Bronco tickets and remolding offices, while the people in the center didn't have heat and the roof leaked. Gessler didn't have the guts to go after them, I guess because the developmentally diabled aren't  a big voting block.

billl1
billl1

In light of our current federal administration's disgraceful adherence to enforcing existing laws (immigration, for one), it is refreshing to see someone with Mr. Gessler's backbone. I'm proud of his actions in spite of an unrelenting attack via character assassination, innuendo, and generally data-free diatribes. Aggressive enforcement of laws--large or small--is what he's paid for. Ignoring them for one's political convenience (hello, Obama!) encourages anarchy.

azdawes
azdawes

The more I hear about this guy, the more I like him. I'm tired of these do-nothing elected officials. How about some bold ideas? I don't know anyone who says ya know, our government works really well. I hope it keeps doing what it's doing. Put someone in there to shake things up and of course, he'll get hammered.

Go, Scotty, Go!

 
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