"I don't know for sure right now," Gessler says. "Everyone agrees that non-citizens shouldn't be voting. We're looking at options.... I don't want to commit myself. But this is a problem that still cries out for a solution — for a better solution than we've had in the past."

Denise Maes, who has been watching Gessler closely from her post as public-policy director of the ACLU of Colorado, says that the secretary of state should not have squandered so many resources on this project. "I obviously question his motives, but I also question his priorities in office," she notes.

If there are administrative flaws in the way that people sign up to vote in Colorado that result in non-citizens being on the rolls, then those flaws should be fixed, she says, but not with the fear tactics Gessler has used. "Is 'fraud' an appropriate word to use?" she asks.

Scott Gessler is at home at the Colorado Secretary of State's office.
Mark Manger
Scott Gessler is at home at the Colorado Secretary of State's office.
Luis Toro, director of Colorado Ethics Watch.
Mark Manger
Luis Toro, director of Colorado Ethics Watch.

But Gessler points out that his critics' arguments have evolved to match his research. "The argument against me is, 'There's no problem, no problem at all.' Then I identify a problem. Then the argument is, 'Well, there's not enough of a problem,' which becomes very, very difficult for people to sustain," he says.

In September, as the controversy over his anti-fraud work continued to simmer, Gessler launched a $1.1 million registration campaign with television, radio, print and online ads in English and Spanish. And by October 9, the deadline to register to vote, more than 3.6 million voters had signed up in this state — a more than 10 percent jump in registrations from 2008, a rate that outpaced the state's population growth. Gessler says this increase can be traced to his ad campaign and to targeted mailers sent to eligible, but not registered, voters. Colorado was also a national leader with its web-optimized, online voter-registration platform, he adds; no other state had this kind of system in place.

And Colorado had a notable jump in turnout on November 6 — about 172,000 more voters than in 2008. Gessler also points to an 11 percent surge in participation from military and overseas voters — an increase he attributes to his new electronic ballot delivery system. While detractors say that much of this success can be traced to the presidential campaigns in swing states, Gessler insists that Colorado's improvements in registration and turnout exceeded those of some other battleground states with comparable campaign activity, such as Florida and Ohio.

Despite these gains, the election was not without pitfalls — minor blips from Gessler's perspective, but major snafus in the eyes of voter-rights groups. From September 14 to 24, for example, the registrations of Coloradans who used the mobile-optimized version of GoVoteColorado.com were not recorded due to a technical glitch. About 800 people may have mistakenly thought they'd registered successfully; Gessler's office had no way of identifying or contacting them.

About two weeks later, on the final day to register to vote, the secretary of state's website crashed. Gessler's tech team brought in more servers, but on election day, the website again had problems because of high traffic.

"There was not adequate attention to that," says Colorado Common Cause's Nunez.

But Gessler says he is proud of his successes — so much so that he can't believe how much his opponents harp on the glitches.

"This is where you get the partisanship and the hypocrisy of the people who criticize me," Gessler says. "They say, 'You should be focused on getting people to register to vote,' and so I do it, and I do it in a way that no one has ever done in the history of Colorado and...what do they say? Nothing! Nothing! They pretend it didn't happen."

********

Scott Gessler is running for re-election in 2014. At least that's his plan for now. A reporter once tricked him into saying he might launch a campaign to try to unseat Democratic governor John Hickenlooper, he says, but he insists that he wants to keep his secretary of state seat for another term. "I've got a great record to run on," he says.

While Democrats look for someone to run against him, Colorado Ethics Watch is taking another approach altogether. A report the group published in September argues that the secretary of state's office should be non-partisan, and that would require a major reorganization of how elections are run. According to Ethics Watch's Toro, some states do this well — with either a nonpartisan director of elections who is appointed, or an independent, bipartisan commission. The secretary of state could just become a cabinet post charged with watching Colorado's business operations, he suggests.

"The secretary of state position has become a political football and a prize to be won, with the reward being your side gets to set the rules for the next election," Toro says. "To me, that's not how democracy should work."

But according to Gessler, the current system is clearly working in Colorado — and the investigations are just proof of the checks and balances.

Gessler fully expects to be exonerated in both cases. If the state's Independent Ethics Commission finds him guilty, though, the punishment would be a censure and a fine — neither one a huge obstacle to his re-election. But Toro says that if the Denver district attorney finds evidence of wrongdoing in his spending records, Gessler could face criminal charges ranging from a Class One misdemeanor to a Class Five felony of embezzlement of public funds, an offense that would bar him from holding public office.

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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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