Libertarians go where Republicans fear to tread
The Libertarian Party of Colorado filed suit in Denver District Court Friday, seeking immediate relief from the inherent conflicts in and unlawful implementation of the Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act, more commonly called HB 1303 after the bill that spawned it. It is also widely known as the Voter Fraud Bill for its “catch me if you can” approach to voting integrity.
The suit claims that the new law disenfranchises voters because of the way it changes residency requirements. Since the requirements of the law conflict with local election codes, county clerks have implemented the law in different ways, making things even worse.
The defendants in the case are Secretary of State Scott Gessler, county clerks Gilbert Ortiz (Pueblo County), Wayne Williams (El Paso), Jack Arrowsmith (Douglas), and Matt Crane (Arapahoe), representing a defendant class of all Colorado County Clerk & Recorders.
The new election law was the subject of a previous Libertarian lawsuit in August, when the party and two prospective candidates sued Secretary Gessler and two county clerks over the provisions in the law that contradicted the deadline established in the Colorado Constitution for successor candidates' petitions. Denver District Judge Robert McGahey's ruling upheld the Constitution, allowing fair access to the ballot by all potential candidates and forcing the recall elections to be conducted in the traditional manner at polling places rather than by mandatory mail ballot.
As with the previous suit, this one will not delay the election, but it does ask for certain races to be voted on again if the number of any improper ballots cast is found to exceed the margin of victory.
"As voting for the November election got underway and we began to discover the multitude of contradictory interpretations of residency requirements that several county clerks were making, it became clear that we had to step in again and try to address the problems in this deeply flawed legislation," said Jeff Orrok, Chair of the Colorado Libertarian Party. "Residency issues are only the tip of the iceberg. The problems with this 104-page law are numerous and complex -- this is not something that can be summed up with a single sound bite, and anyone who tries will only add to the confusion."
Victor Head, founder of Pueblo Freedom & Rights, the organization that initiated the recent recall of Senator Giron, said, “The experience of the Giron recall election demonstrated to me that Colorado’s election laws and the current election practices in Pueblo County in particular must be challenged to ensure that all eligible voters have the opportunity to vote, and have their votes counted accurately….I am concerned about the trampling of Pueblo’s City Home Rule Charter voter eligibility requirements, as determined by the voters of Pueblo.” Head is a plaintiff in the suit.
Shawn Mitchell, Broomfield-based attorney for the plaintiffs, commented, “As a former 14-year Colorado legislator, involved in the passage of many election bills, I’ve never seen voters’ rights and election integrity so ignored and abused. There was an agenda of reckless disregard for the impact on voters, candidates and citizen petitions.”
Voters can’t even be sure how the law will affect their voting rights. Some people who move or change their registration are actually disenfranchised. In other cases ineligible voters are given ballots and allowed to vote. For example, a voter can go to the Secretary of State’s website to change his or her address—but eligibility starts from when the change is made, not from the effective date of the move. IF that same person registered locally, the clerk and recorder’s office may well apply the “effective date.”
It is because of inconsistencies such as these that the Libertarians decided to sue. Jeff Orrok and his party deserve the thanks of the people: they have been willing to go where the two major parties have not. The Democrats seem bent on opening up elections to widespread fraud, while the Republicans are unwilling to challenge the laws in any meaningful way.
Indeed, many Republicans seem to be on the same page as Democrats: state party chair Ryan Call favours all-mail in elections even though vote fraud is easy to commit. It’s not just Call: Clerks Williams, Arrowsmith and Crane are all Republicans.
Wayne Williams in El Paso County is among a few clerks who have tried hard to manage the conflicting requirements of the new law with existing statutes for local elections. In the end, it is just not possible.
The November election is really about community self-governance. This election is made up of over 1,000 local non-partisan contests for hundreds of towns, cities, school districts, library and fire districts, and have direct impact on the affairs of local governments and their citizens. These are elections that most closely affect people’s daily lives. They are also the ones that are most vulnerable to vote fraud.
Williams’ office referred 18 names to the 4th Judicial District Attorney just this week for suspected fraud during the Senate District 11 recall election. These individuals may have used the same-day voter registration system to vote without actually residing in the district. The list contains four Republicans, ten Democrats, and four unaffiliated voters.
Eighteen does not seem like a large number but in a local district where there may only be 50 or 100 voters, it is enough to change an election outcome. It is to prevent this sort of thing from happening that the Libertarians have decided to sue.