Thus far, Secretary of State Scott Gessler has made news most often when complaining about how little people in his position are paid -- gripes that led to a moonlighting scheme he subsequently dumped. But he stepped into the spotlight yesterday for a different reason -- his support of HB 1252, a bill intended to verify voter citizenship. But is this a real problem, or politics as usual?
The former, Gessler argued at a press conference yesterday and in statements released by his staff. "Fact is, my office has every reason to believe that thousands of non-citizens are registered to vote in Colorado," he maintains. "Though the opponents of this bill want us to look the other way or bury our heads in the sand, House Bill 1252 will allow us to inquire for more information using public databases" such as jury recusal lists, among others.
Kjersten Forseth, executive director of ProgressNow Colorado, a liberal advocacy group, begs to differ.
"The Secretary of State doesn't specify which database he's going to compare voter registration rolls against," she notes. "At the press conference, he was talking about the DMV [Division of Motor Vehicles], but there are people who can get a license who aren't permanent, legal U.S. residents. So that's not clear. But once he does the comparison and, say, Kjersten Forseth shows up as somebody not on the list, I have to prove I'm actually a resident or else I get kicked off the voter roles. That seems patently unfair."
Moreover, she continues, Gessler "is not 100 percent certain" that the discrepancies between voter rolls and non-citizen records he cited represent "actual illegal residents who were registered to vote in the state. And there's never been a documented case of voter fraud here. So he's wasting our time and our taxpayer dollars."
Proposals like HB 1252 aren't unique to Colorado. As Forseth points out, "We're seeing this happening across the nation -- the introduction of bill after bill with photo ID requirements and other proofs of citizenship when you register to vote. It's one thing after another to create an impediment for people to vote -- and it's a real obstacle for low-income individuals, who are potentially more progressive."
Hence, Gessler is "coming up with a solution when there isn't even a problem," Forseth believes. "And especially at a time when we're dealing with a horrible economy in Colorado, we need to be concentrating on creating less bureaucracy, not more."
Yes, you read right: A liberal is criticizing a conservative for promoting an unnecessary government program.
At this point, ProgressNow Colorado is concentrating mainly on informing its members about HB 1252 -- "but we'll be watching to see how this bill progresses and how much support it gets," Forseth says. "And if it gets support, we'll escalate, because this is a bad bill. It's too vague and it's meant to cause more harm than good."
Page down to read the Secretary of State's Office release about the comparison of voter rolls and non-citizen records, as well as HB 1252 in its entirety:
Secretary of State's Office release: "Comparison of Colorado's Voter Rolls with Department of Revenue Non-Citizen Records."
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