Friday, October 17, 2008

Will Colorado be the Ohio or Florida of 2008?

WE'VE MOVED! Democratic Convention Watch is now at

Swing state? Check. Local air waves peppered with political ads? Check. Whole mess of new voters? Check. Secretary of State? Yeah, you know what comes next.

The New York Times covered yesterday's press conference in front of Coffman's office.

About 6,400 new voters in Colorado may not be allowed to cast regular ballots on Election Day because they failed to check a box on a voter registration form.

The form has caused concern among voter registration groups, who say that officials with Secretary of State Mike Coffman’s office specifically told them the box did not need to be checked, a charge denied by Mr. Coffman, a Republican.

Under federal law, new voters must provide a driver’s license or a state identification number, or, if they have neither, at least the last four digits of their Social Security number. On the Colorado form, revised in 2006, voters who opted for the Social Security digits were also to check a box that stated, “I do not have a Colorado Driver’s License or Dept. of Revenue Identification Number.”

Thousands of new voters who did not check the box have received letters saying they must reregister. Those who do not can cast provisional ballots, said Richard Coolidge, a spokesman with Mr. Coffman’s office, but such ballots involve additional verification and are often discounted, according to voting experts.
voterreg press conference 72dpi

From the press conference, Steve Fenberg (speaking at podium above) of New Era Colorado said:
We are here today because thousands of voters may find it more difficult and even impossible to vote a normal ballot because of a state regulation created and enforced by the Secretary of State...The Secretary of State's mandatory training trained my group to instruct voters to fill out a registration form that is directly in violation of the regulation.

When Fenberg specifically asked about the situation where someone doesn't have their driver's license on them. In this case, Fenburg said, the SOS staff told him that person SHOULD NOT check the box. This had happened to organizations doing voter registration such as SEIU, Latina Initiative, Foward Colorado, the Obama campaign, and others. So Coffman's assertion this did not happen sounds like CYA or he does know what's going on in his own office. Maybe he's just too busy running for Congress to replace Tom Tancredo.

When I asked SOS spokesman Coolidge about this by phone he only said, "All of our training is done according to state and federal law." So I then asked him, "So you're saying what the Sos staff told Mr. Fenburg was correct?" He only repeated his non answer. When I asked further explanation or clarification, the response was, "Nope." It sounds like they're preparing for a legal challenge to their assertion that everything was done according to law.

Those who do not correct their voter registration will not receive a mail-in ballot. For those expecting to vote in person, they will have to vote on a provisional ballot, subject to further scrutiny. In 2006 problems with provisional ballots were widely reported:
• Over one-third of problems involved voters either being denied a provisional ballot when they were likely entitled to one, or individuals being required to cast a provisional ballot when they should have voted with a regular ballot.

• Almost 40 percent of the incidents involved problems with voter registration lists-often causing numerous voters to be omitted from the rolls at their polling place and leading to voter and administrator confusion about provisional ballot use-and other breakdowns in election administration occurring prior to Election Day.

• Fourteen percent of reports involved provisional ballots and electronic voting machine malfunctions.

• Fifteen percent of incidents involved poll workers either requiring voters to cast provisional ballots even though they had provided proper ID, requesting ID unnecessarily or, in the case of voters who genuinely lacked the appropriate ID, failing to inform such voters of the necessary steps to validate their provisional ballots (e.g., presenting valid ID to elections officials within a prescribed number of days after the election). Almost 80 percent of these incidents happened in Ohio.

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