After Scott Gessler's anti-fraud efforts, more than 500 registered voters removed

Colorado's Secretary of State Scott Gessler maintains that voter fraud is a serious problem -- and after launching initiatives to prevent illegal ballots from being cast, his office says that exactly 518 voters were removed from the rolls due to non-citizenship -- more than expected. Some may have taken themselves off the list after being contacted by his office, while others were likely taken off by county clerks.

One of the biggest loopholes in Colorado's registration system according to the Secretary of State's office is that immigrants who aren't allowed to vote can sometimes easily sign up on the voter rolls. That means that if they vote on Election Day, it would be an act of fraud.

In the months leading up to the high-stakes election in Colorado, Gessler got a lot of push back for his efforts to address this loophole, which included sending letters to thousands of registered voters who his office suspected were non-citizens based on Division of Motor Vehicle records, asking them to prove their citizenship or voluntarily cancel their registrations. At the same time, he did two different rounds of checks on alleged non-citizens through an immigration database maintained by the federal government.

To his critics, the whole anti-fraud project is generally a pointless one -- and one that comes with potentially negative impacts, like suppressing and intimidating legal voters who have recently become United States citizens.

His staff has shared documents with us on multiple occasions that they say make it clear how confused immigrants might accidentally sign up to vote, not realizing it's against the law. And right now, the system is clearly not equipped to make sure they don't register, Gessler argues, since federal records reveal that thousands on Colorado voter rolls could be immigrants.

A majority of those flagged by Gessler have in fact remained on the voter rolls -- and some county clerks say they are confident in the names that they've confirmed and kept on their rolls.

Still, 518 is more than initially expected, given that his final push to remove illegal voters happened so close to Election Day -- which Gessler says is a result of the fact that his staff just couldn't access federal records until late this summer.

The 518 encompasses voters who were removed or cancelled even before those initiatives, however. Before August, there were 430 that had been taken off the voter rolls due to non-citizenship, which means that his latest round of letters and checks was responsible for the cancellations of 88 voters.

That's a notable number relative to the mere fourteen voters that were removed after a first round of checks this fall. Still, critics are quick to point out that these numbers are an incredibly tiny percentage of voters in Colorado, such that the Secretary of State, as the chief election officer, should not be devoting so much time and resources to anti-fraud work.

Questions still remain about how many removed voters have in fact cast ballots in past elections and likewise how many of the alleged non-citizens -- at least according to Gessler's checks -- ended up voting this cycle.

Regardless, it is likely an issue that Gessler will continue to work on going forward. As one of the reports from his office on the matter says, "The true scope of the problem is unknown."

More from our Politics archive: "Marijuana: Ron Paul co-sponsoring bill asking feds to back off on Amendment 64"

Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin. E-mail the author at [email protected].

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Sam Levin
Contact: Sam Levin