Scott Gessler voter checks: 44 removed from rolls, four of them Republicans

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Last week, Secretary of State Scott Gessler said his office had identified 300 more non-citizens illegally registered to vote who would be committing fraud if they did so. Gessler admitted that the timing of results from this second round of checks wasn't ideal. But county clerks were able to act before election day.

Between the two rounds, a total of 44 people listed on voter rolls have been removed statewide. Only seven of them have voted. And just four were Republicans.

The controversial project to prevent voter fraud in Colorado has reached thousands of residents who are registered to vote. And according to Gessler, the majority of those targeted are most likely not citizens.

The main way his office has conducted these investigations is through a federal immigration database, which his office used to cross-check the names of voters who signed up to vote but could be immigrants (based on Division of Motor Vehicles records).

In two separate rounds, thousands of voters were scrutinized with this Department of Homeland Security database. The first check found 141. And the second, announced two weeks before election day, came up with 300 more.

At that time, Gessler lamented that there wasn't much he could do to actually remove many of these voters, other than send them letters asking that they verify their citizenship and forward the names to county clerks. Officials can undertake more formal challenge procedures, but not in this time frame. (Gessler, since the start of this effort, has charged the federal government with dragging its feet in giving him access to the data he was requesting.)

After the first round, fourteen voters were removed across the state. None had voted in past elections. Gessler maintains that fraud is a serious issue and that he is confident most of the 441 total identified are probably illegal voters, since the federal government says so. Meanwhile, his critics, including an immigration advocate and legal citizen who was flagged in the most recent check, argue that the federal database can be inaccurate and that letters from Gessler's office could intimidate legal voters from going to the polls.

The latest numbers from Gessler's office reveal that a total of 44 have been removed, including the fourteen from the first round. And of the other thirty, some actually voted in past elections, which for Gessler and his supporters is further proof that fraud is a legitimate problem in this state that requires attention. Of the 44 total, seven have voted in past elections.

Four voted in November of 2011, one in November of 2010 and one in November of 2004 -- all their most recent elections.

Continue for more details on these voters and for commentary from Gessler. Rich Coolidge, spokesman for Gessler, tells us that the number removed could reflect cancellations from counties or withdrawals. In Denver, as we reported earlier this week, the county clerk's office removed five voters from the latest names sent by Gessler's office. However, officials there argue that the listings were simply the result of clerical errors on their end, pointing out that none of the immigrants had tried to vote in the past.

Coolidge sees these numbers as evidence of loopholes similar to letters on file with the Secretary of State's office from immigrants who say they mistakenly registered and voted.

"We knew from the letters sent by non-citizen voters that we had a vulnerability in the system," Coolidge writes via e-mail. "We continue to work with the federal government to improve the integrity of our voter rolls and build greater voter confidence in our elections."

As we've noted, 163 of the 441 names flagged were Democrats, 37 were Republicans and 232 were unaffiliated, according to data provided to us by Gessler's office. (Another six were committed to the Green Party, two are part of the American Constitution Party and one is a registered Libertarian).

Of the 44 names actually removed, 21 were listed as unaffiliated, 18 were Democrats, four were Republicans, and one was a Green Party member. In Colorado, there's a pretty even split between Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters, which is what makes it such a key swing state.

Gessler, who is a Republican, has always maintained that this effort has absolutely nothing to do with political parties -- and that his office doesn't even look at affiliations in its research. They are simply investigating based on local records and data from the federal government, he and his staff say.

Still, Gessler's harshest critics argue that he is part of a concerted conservative effort to block non-Republicans from the polls (while some less harsh observers argue that the initiative is a misplaced priority that has the potential to confuse or scare legal voters, especially new citizens).

The fact that only 9 percent of the total voters removed so far are Republicans is likely to fuel claims of partisanship from his office in the final days of the race.

In an interview last week, Gessler dismissed these accusations.

"This whole policy and this whole approach has been done without regard to partisanship. That's the bottom line," he said, later adding, "I'm doing this because I think this is the way we should treat everyone equally in the state of Colorado regardless of partisan makeup."

Gessler is quick to point out that his registration campaign in the final weeks helped to register more Democrats than Republicans and that he has spent a lot of money on his advertising campaign to encourage voters.

He said of his opponents, "These guys are politicizing the issue. We followed where the numbers led us."

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Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin. E-mail the author at Sam.Levin@Westword.com.

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