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By mid-October, a measly total of fourteen voters had actually been removed from the rolls as a result of Gessler's letters. None of those fourteen had voted in past elections.

But the effort to stop fraud wasn't over yet.

Just two weeks before November 6, Gessler announced that he had done yet another check on thousands of potential non-citizens who might be voting. It was the final countdown until election day; many of his critics were appalled that he was still pursuing an anti-fraud crusade that had already come up close to empty.

"The agenda has always been clear, but the path has not been transparent," says Elena Nunez, executive director of Colorado Common Cause, an advocacy group that works on voter rights.

But Gessler, frustrated that the federal government had only given him access to the desired information in August, said he wished he had more time — and that he feared more fraudulent voters would slip through the cracks.

********

In a packed room inside the South Metro Chamber of Commerce in December, residents took turns venting as Scott Gessler, flanked by deputy Suzanne Staiert, jotted notes on a white legal pad.

The most common concern? Voter fraud.

"If you're not American, you shouldn't vote," shouted Steven Haworth, who lives in Aurora and was offering public comment as part of Gessler's "election integrity listening tour," during which he and staffers traveled around the state to collect public feedback about the election. "I think you need to purge those voters."

Haworth said that he was a precinct leader who made calls in support of Mitt Romney, and several times encountered registered voters who told him they weren't citizens.

Kaarl Hoopes, an election judge in Commerce City, offered his comments at a meeting in Denver a week later. "I definitely had some concerns about efforts to increase the voter participation of people who had no business voting, who had no right to vote at all," he said. "I really applaud his efforts to clean up the voter rolls to make sure that...people who do not have the right to vote have their name taken off the list."

While Gessler and his aides had spent months responding to criticisms about the secretary of state's alleged intimidation tactics, at these post-election events, he largely fielded complaints that he and county election officials across the state hadn't done enough to prevent and prosecute fraud.

So how much fraud was there?

Jessica Zender, a policy analyst with the Colorado Judicial Branch's Division of Planning and Analysis, says that from 2002 through December 7, 2012, 39 cases were filed tied to the state statute that covers voter fraud, with a total of 48 charges. Of those, sixteen actually led to convictions, with fourteen found guilty and two deferred sentences. The remaining charges were likely dismissed, although, in theory, the cases could still be ongoing. But that's unlikely, as most of the charges were filed before 2011. In fact, all but ten of the 48 charges were filed before 2010 — when Gessler took office.

Gessler notes that in 2010, six people who voted in Colorado and in Kansas were charged with fraud, and he laments that they didn't face serious prosecution. Of his critics, he says, "They say, 'No voter fraud, no voter fraud, no voter fraud!'.... So we point out six instances where people purposely voted in two states at once...and they say, 'It's just six!'"

For critics of Gessler's anti-fraud focus, the numbers show that this is a tiny problem that doesn't deserve the attention it's been given. But Gessler responds that the numbers simply show that our legal and judicial systems aren't set up to effectively detect and punish fraud. "There's a hesitance to prosecute this kind of stuff," he says. "They say there aren't that many prosecutions — [but] that's not the way you measure the issue. You have to do it through a preventative and administrative approach."

As early voting got under way in October, Gessler announced that he had done checks on more voters, leading him to raise the number of suspected non-citizens on the voter rolls to 441. He mailed them letters and sent their names to county clerks.

All told, since he took office, Gessler's non-citizen initiatives have resulted in a total of 518 voters being "canceled" in the voter-registration system for not being citizens. About ninety of those came in the final months of his pre-election cross-checks and letters.

Of the 3,903 potential non-citizens identified last summer, 63 said they were non-citizens and withdrew their names from the roles; twelve of them had voted in previous elections, which meant that twelve people had committed fraud in Colorado and gotten away with it, Gessler staffers said. Still, 3,283 managed to prove that they were citizens or had their citizenship status verified through federal checks. Based on federal records, there are 374 who did not respond and are not citizens, Gessler's staff says.

As a result of his office's work, the voter rolls are cleaner than they have ever been, Gessler insists.

Gessler's critics are waiting for his next move. Will he try to prosecute those he believes committed fraud? Will he push a new rule or legislation that makes it possible for his office to directly purge voters? (Gessler and his staff are quick to point out that the secretary of state's office has never directly removed any voters.)

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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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