Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman's been on a roll lately. First, his office didn't respond to a New York Times article claiming that thousands of names may have been illegally stricken from Colorado's voting rolls -- a public-relations botch he subsequently chalked up to "miscommunication." Shortly thereafter, word surfaced that the Independent Ethics Commission had voted to hear a conflict-of-interest complaint against him -- a fact that the Times dutifully noted around the same time a New York University study identified Colorado as one of the states most poorly prepared for electronic-voting problems during the upcoming election.
So how has Coffman responded? By going after one of his critics, Colorado Democratic Party chair Pat Waak, in a broadside as badly timed as it is wrongheaded.
"Working to Ensure Fairness," the headline affixed to a Coffman op-ed in today's Rocky Mountain News, strikes the right tone. At this point, Coffman needs to reassure voters that he's on the case and everything is going to be all right. Too bad this title doesn't reflect the piece as a whole, which is framed as a slap at Waak. Here's how it begins:
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Pat Waak, the chair of the Colorado Democratic Party, has been doing all she can to undermine voter confidence in this election, and, ultimately, her actions could suppress voter turnout.
Her most recent public attack is against Colorado's attorney general, John Suthers, whose office has issued an opinion allowing county clerks to continue to cancel duplicate voter registrations within the 90 days prior to the upcoming election.
From Aug. 1 to Oct. 16, 3,069 duplicate voter registrations were canceled by county clerks within the 90-day window. Waak is accusing Suthers of "taking part in a GOP effort to stop people from voting."
Does Waak really want thousands of voters to have access to multiple ballots for the same election?
Granted, Coffman has a point when it comes to Suthers' ruling, which found that Secretary of State personnel hadn't broken any laws -- and no one with an iota of morals wants any voters to cast multiple ballots (although, presumably, procedures in place would prevent extras from being counted). But right now, the last thing Coffman should be engaging in is a partisan attack.
Colorado voters of every ideological persuasion are terrified that this election is going to be as clumsily run as the last two -- not just Democrats with a vested interest in making sure newly registered voters aren't disenfranchised (since, after all, most of them are Dems). He should be speaking with every media outlet in the state and beyond, over and over again, to let them know what his office is doing to make certain the election runs smoothly. Moreover, if complaints or concerns surface, he should go out of his way to address them instead of lashing out and getting defensive, as he does in today's Rocky offering.
As previously noted, Coffman is running for Congress in the ultimate safe Republican district, so maybe he's simply stuck in the campaign mindset. But when he's wearing his Secretary of State hat, he's got to be much more evenhanded. Taking a whack at Waak further undermines confidence in his judgment, which has been steadily sliding in recent weeks. -- Michael Roberts