News

Scott Gessler's suit against Denver County for inactive-voter mailings shameful, says ACLU

Last week, Secretary of State Scott Gessler filed a lawsuit against Denver County in an effort to prevent officials there from sending ballots to voters listed as inactive. He claims he's merely following state law, which calls for county clerks to contact only active voters, while pretty much every progressive organization in the state accuses him of partisan vote suppression. Among the latter is ACLU of Colorado executive director C. Ray Drew. Here's his take.

According to Drew, corresponding by e-mail, his organization finds Gessler's decision to sue Denver "puzzling." After all, his job is to "supervise and administer our state's elections," but "instead of ensuring that Coloradans can vote, our Secretary of State is taking the unprecedented step of spending public money to keep the public from voting."

Gessler's actions would "purge voters from the rolls simply because they haven't voted in the last year," he goes on, and there are plenty of legitimate reasons why people might have missed an election. Maybe they were out of the country, or serving in the military, or "simply felt uninspired by the choices available to them on the ballot," he maintains. "But to go as far as to file a lawsuit to prevent them from receiving a ballot -- to make it harder to vote -- leaves us questioning the commitment of the Secretary of State to the mission of his own office."

In Drew's opinion, Gessler's suit can't have anything to do with voter fraud, since it's so rare. (The recent conviction of David Shackley for double-voting was the first such case in recent memory -- and it occurred because two different municipalities mailed him ballots.) And he doubts Gessler is motivated by saving taxpayer dollars, since suing Denver, an area with a high percentage of registered Democrats (Gessler is a Republican), will be a lot more expensive than sending a ballot that might not be used by an inactive but otherwise eligible voter.

"Denver believes that the opportunity to vote is worth the price of a stamp," Drew writes, "and our Secretary of State should honor that decision, not fight it." He adds: "Any attempt to keep Coloradans from voting is simply shameful."

More from our Politics archive: "Larimer County Republican Party target of new complaint from Colorado Ethics Watch."

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.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts