A t 2 p.m. on October 29, U.S. District Judge John Kane will consider arguments by Colorado Common Cause and other organizations that approximately 30,000 names stricken from the voter rolls during the last few months be reinstated prior to Election Day.
The hearing marks the latest example of unwanted attention for Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman and his office, which was spotlighted in an October 9 New York Times article that said voter purges by Colorado and five other states appear to be illegal, and "Block the Vote," a piece in the current issue of Rolling Stone by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Greg Palast that details what its authors see as vote suppression conducted as part of the Republican Party's electoral strategy.
Colorado is only mentioned briefly in "Block the Vote," but Palast, a BBC journalist, considers this state to be the most problematic example of systematic voter disenfranchisement in the entire country.
"In Colorado," he says, "you've got two-fisted thievery by the Republican Party and two hands over the eyeballs by the Democratic Party."
Palast lays much of the credit/blame at the door of former secretary of state Donetta Davidson, whom he refers to as "the purgin' general of the United States," saying she and Coffman removed 19.4 percent of Colorado's voter file list from 2004 to 2006. Palast says he tried to contact Coffman about this figure but was "stonewalled." Secretary of state spokesman Richard Coolidge confirms that office reps didn't speak to Palast — because, he says, they couldn't confirm his BBC affiliation in time — but says they did provide data following a Freedom of Information Act request.
Some of the more egregious cases, in Palast's view, involve ex-felons, who are legally allowed to vote in the state. "It's an urban myth that they're banned in most places," he maintains. "The problem you have in Colorado is that ex-cons aren't voting when they have the right to, not the opposite. And the reason is, if an illegal voter voted, the chances he'd get arrested are 100 percent." And despite a 2005 Denver Post article about investigations into voter fraud in 47 Colorado counties (Palast calls the piece a "biased, fictitious, bullshit press release"), he's been unable to find evidence of a single prosecution resulting from these probes.
"Are you really telling me that one in five voters are fraudulent, illegal voters who are trying to steal the election?" he continues. "No, they're not. Is the state really rife with fraudulent voters? No, it's not. It's a complete, absolute con, and they know it. Davidson and Mike Coffman have been running a purge-and-block operation."
The newly formed Colorado Election Reform Commission will look into such claims — but a hearing won't take place until November 12, after the election is over. "Someone ought to buy the Democratic Party of Colorado a calendar," Palast cracks.
Still, commission appointee Paul Hultin doesn't seem ready to give a pass to Coffman, a Sixth Congressional District candidate. "Mike Coffman is Colorado's secretary of state — the state's chief election officer — and he's running for federal office in an election he's administering, and in which he's being sued for violations of federal law," Hultin points out. "What's wrong with this picture?"
Colorado Common Cause has an answer to that question — but it's Judge Kane's opinion that counts.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.