Today's editions of the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post are dominated by details about the break in the Darrent Williams murder case, and that's entirely appropriate. But it's important that the dailies not overlook the information contained in "States' Actions to Block Voters Appears Illegal," a startling New York Times story published on October 8 that relates directly to November's election. The Times contends that thousands of voters in six swing states, including Colorado, "have been removed from the rolls or have been blocked from registering in ways that appear to violate federal law."
Times reporter Ian Urbina writes that the states in question are trying to comply with the Help America Vote Act of 2002, which requires that they "remove the names of voters who should no longer be listed" for a variety of entirely legitimate reasons. However, Urbina suggests that Colorado, among others, has been too zealous in these efforts:
Michigan and Colorado are removing voters from the rolls within 90 days of a federal election, which is not allowed except when voters die, notify the authorities that they have moved out of state, or have been declared unfit to vote...
In three states — Colorado, Louisiana and Michigan — the number of people purged from the election rolls since Aug. 1 far exceeds the number who may have died or relocated during that period...
In Colorado, some 37,000 people were removed from the rolls in the three weeks after July 21. During that time, about 5,100 people moved out of the state and about 2,400 died, according to postal data and death records.
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How does Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman, who's running for Congress in a district where it's virtually impossible for him to lose, explain these numbers? He didn't respond to a request for comment from the Times.
Pretty newsworthy stuff -- but the Denver dailies haven't done much with the information to date. The Post published the Times article on its website today -- the time stamp reads 9:14 a.m. -- but it's not in the physical edition that landed on my driveway. Similarly, the Rocky's site published a shortened version of the Times piece courtesy of the Associated Press. In the printed paper, however, the closest thing to a report on the topic is "Voter Registration Forms Scrutinized," which focuses on teams of staffers who are flagging documents for discrepancies. It pooh-poohs potential difficulties with passages like this one:
Faulty records won't bounce a voter off the rolls. Some blogs claim the secretary of state's office is purging voters -- one rumor says most are Democrats. But officials insist that isn't happening.
Of course, the New York Times can't be lumped in with "some blogs." The paper's reporting in this instance seems solid and thorough -- and the Rocky and the Post would be well-advised to build on it, as opposed to simply slapping something on their respective websites and calling it a day. -- Michael Roberts