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Scott Gessler spokesmen reject voter suppression accusations against him

Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler claims he's under unwarranted attacks by media and Democratic leaders like Rick Palacio, who recently accused Gessler's proposed voting policy as an attempt at voter suppression. Palacio connected Gessler's legislations to the 1965 civil rights movement, during which advocates protesting for African-American voting rights were beaten by police.

"This time, however, Americans won't be faced with night sticks. They'll instead be faced with new laws written by the Republican legislature and the Secretary of State," Palacio said at a Monday press conference.

Rich Coolidge, a spokesman for Gessler's office, replies to Palacio's comment: "Instead of giving Colorado voters a positive message about his candidates, chairman Palacio is resorting to fear-mongering and distorted, negative attacks. I hope this doesn't set the tone for the rest of the year."

Matt Inzeo, communications director for the Colorado Democratic Party says Palacio's statements were pointed at Gessler's support of a legislation that would require voters to show photo identifications. Under current Colorado law, voters are allowed to use birth certificates and bank statements as I.D. rather than being limited to one with a photo.

Inzeo says the legislation disproportionately suppresses minority and lower-income communities. "The reality is, it takes resources to have an I.D," Inzeo says. "If you don't have the means to own a car, an I.D. isn't necessarily a given. You need to be in a position to take off multiple hours of a job to get it, and they're not free. Those are all factors that stack the deck against a lower income individual. If you turn that into a requirement you're naturally disadvantaging someone."

Andrew Cole, Gessler's communications adviser, disagrees. He calls charges of voter suppression "overblown" and says Gessler's voting policy -- including his lawsuit against Denver, intended to prevent ballots from being sent to inactive voters -- is merely an effort to "point to vulnerabilities in the system" and avoid fraud.

"People who are willing to have an honest discussion about the election policy would rather resort to that discussion [about allegations of voter suppression] instead of how we can ensure the integrity of our election," Cole says. "Instead, people are offering those kinds of insults, so I think it's unfortunate."

Critics also accuse Gessler of claiming that he's fighting fraud without presenting adequate evidence that such problems exist.

"We don't have proof of a lot of fraud," Cole says. "Critics on the left say he's talking about massive fraud. When we point to incidences of fraud, they say that's too limited. He's never talked about massive fraud; he's only talked about instances in the fraud which we know are there."

The Secretary of State's office pointed to a 2010 election case in which six voters were found to have voted twice -- once in Colorado and once Kansas. "We think that those sorts of instances of fraud point to vulnerabilities in the system," Cole says.

In an interview on Grassroots Radio Colorado Monday, Gessler said he can't catch a break from media critics, either: "The mainstream media beats me up all the time. They don't like what I'm doing," he said. "I'd like to see more people commenting online to stories, posting on those blogs.... We need to be reaching out to those people in the middle, the ones who do read the mainstream media, and making our points known."

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When asked to reply to the "mainstream media attacks," Cole says, "Secretary Gessler has been challenging that status quo, and when that happens, there will be criticism about him. But you know, he came into office with an agenda: He wants to ensure the integrity of our elections."

More from our Politics archive: "Scott Gessler thinks the mainstream media hates uppity Republicans."

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