Scott Gessler: Ten politicos weigh in on Secretary of State's first years in office

We recently profiled Colorado's Secretary of State Scott Gessler, who has received a great deal of attention due to allegations of corruption and accusations that he has suppressed voters.

In our reporting, we got perspectives from many local politicians and elected officials on Gessler's first years in office. Below is commentary from ten of them.

Gessler, a Republican and the state's chief election officer, has garnered perhaps the most controversy for his anti-fraud project aimed at identifying and removing immigrants who are illegally registered on the state's voter rolls. His critics -- who will be fighting back against new proposed legislation that would make it easier for him to remove non-citizen voters -- argue that it's been a waste of time and an effort that's intimidated legitimate voters.

Gessler says there are still vulnerabilities in the system. However, he feels he's made the voter rolls cleaner and more accurate than ever -- while also making it easier for people to vote.

Aside from the latest controversy surrounding the ongoing investigation into the Secretary's spending -- Gessler has always said he is innocent -- he also faced criticisms for his fights with county clerks. Most notably, he has sued Denver for trying to send mail ballots to "inactive" voters who missed the most recent election. Denver and some other counties argue that these voters are registered and deserve to receive ballots in the mail, while Gessler believes such mailings are a violation of the law that increase the potential for fraud.

Here are comments from ten officials with a diverse range of opinions on these controversies.

Representative Pat Steadman, DemocratSteadman, a vocal Gessler critic, has requested an official state audit into his spending.

"It's disappointing that he wouldn't take care to be a good steward of public funds and to safeguard and preserve the public trust that's been placed in him by virtue of his office.... It's all shades of gray. What he's done is far more brazen...than how most elected officials would conduct themselves..... Does it cross the line into criminal and ethical [violations]? These are open questions.... An audit will get to the bottom of this.

"He's been one of the most partisan Secretaries of State...[Colorado] has ever had.... He certainly stands out.... It's one thing to have a partisan ideological agenda about how you do the job, but it's another thing to do it in a way that dampens public confidence in elected officials."

Representative Libby Szabo, RepublicanSzabo has pushed controversial photo ID bills, which Gessler has supported in the past.

"I believe any Secretary of State's role is to make sure that our voting system throughout the state has the utmost integrity and that it runs smoothly whether in early voting or on election day. I believe the divided government has hampered that.... I don't understand what the big deal is of showing an ID. You have to show your get on an airplane, to pretty much do anything.

"To [take steps] to change a system that has been around for a long, long time and hasn't had a whole lot of changes, I believe that takes a lot of courage," she says of Gessler's efforts to reform the voting system and prevent fraud. "To get in there and fight for what's right is something that we should all be doing as elected officials."

Of Gessler's opponents, she adds, "Instead of criticizing what he's doing, they sometimes criticize who he is and his motives.... It's not about the person of Scott Gessler. It's about doing what's right for the state of Colorado."

Continue for more commentary from Scott Gessler supporters and critics.
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Sam Levin
Contact: Sam Levin

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