Photos: Black voter turns white in campaign flier opposing bill NAACP supports
At 4 p.m. today, the Senate's State Affairs committee is scheduled to consider House Bill 13-1303, a measure intended to make it easier to vote in Colorado.
The NAACP Colorado Montana Wyoming State Area Conference has endorsed the proposal even as it decries one particular attempt to rally opposition via a campaign flier that doubles as a race card. Specifically, a photo of voters waiting in line alters or erases two African-Americans to visually imply that only white people and/or clones would be hurt by the legislation.
According to local conference president Rosemary Harris Lytle, the organization has endorsed the bill "mostly because of the access it provides for voters, and the way it makes democracy work better for more people."
She highlights language to allow same-day voting registration, noting that "so many other states have that, including Wyoming, and it works very well. And we also support having more service centers, which had been an issue in Colorado Springs in the last election. We need to have centers where you register, update and vote available in more communities. That will really modernize elections in Colorado.
"For the NAACP, one of our five game-changers is voting-rights reform and greater access to voting for all people. That's an important part of what we do."
Given this focus, Harris Lytle was shocked by a flier spotlighted by Colorado Pols. The missive, which was distributed in Mesa and La Plata counties, argues that 13-303 is a scheme by President Barack Obama and Democrats to "undermine elections and allow rampant voter fraud." Here's a look at the Mesa County version:
At first glance, the lower photo doesn't seem especially unusual. But compare it to the original image, which a Colorado Pols commenter identifies as originating with the Washington Post.
As you can see, the woman wearing the light-colored hoodie in the foreground is African-American, and an African-American man is standing behind her. In the campaign flier, though, the man is gone and the woman's face is replaced by the visage of the person standing next to her. The result is a horribly Photoshopped version of identical twins.
Colorado Pols created an image to make comparing and contrasting easy.
By the way, the "Hackstaff mailer" label brings up another point. The flier is said to have been funded by the Hackstaff Law Group, an enterprise formerly known as Hackstaff Gessler LLC. And, yes, the "Gessler" of the previous moniker referred to Scott Gessler, Colorado's Secretary of State, as well as an official who progressive activists accuse of trying to suppress rather than expand voting -- a charge Gessler has repeatedly called politically motivated and false.
Secretary of State Scott Gessler.
Photo by Sam Levin
No one is suggesting that Gessler had anything to do with the flier. Nonetheless, Harris Lytle mentions his past connection to Hackstaff in her criticism of the image manipulation.
"This wipes out the very face of voters of color in Colorado -- and I don't think we're over-dramatizing it," she says. "We are wiping out the face of younger voters, senior voters, voters of color, and many other voters by the way we conduct our elections. And we're not just wiping them out in a figurative way" -- as in the flier -- "but literally in the changes to our elections by our secretary of state, who has not yet shown he can do such a critical job and earn the trust of many progressive voters, women voters, younger voters.
"Their access to democracy has been threatened," she goes on, "but this bill opens it up."
Representatives of the NAACP Colorado Montana Wyoming State Area Conference are expected to testify on behalf of HB 13-303. Here's a look at the legislation.
More from our Calhoun: Wake-Up Call archive: "Scott Gessler is off the hook from Westword, but not from everybody."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Westword's biggest stories.