As voters watch the Republican National Convention this week in Tampa, Florida, some Coloradans are criticizing voter-verification efforts by Colorado’s Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler. Gessler is using the Homeland Security database to see if some 4,000 Coloradans are eligible to vote. The people in question received letters from the Secretary of State’s office, asking them to either verify that they are legal citizens, or remove themselves from the voting rolls.
Elena Nunez, executive director of Common Cause Colorado, is concerned about this action.
“We’re talking about a critical election this year: you know, Colorado is one of the top swing states. For someone, particularly someone who’s a new citizen who’s registered to vote, to get a letter from the Secretary of State questioning their eligibility, that can be quite chilling. ”
This isn’t only an issue in Colorado. The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University says more than 5 million Americans could be affected by new voter eligibility rules – a number larger than the margin of victory in two of the last three presidential elections.
Protests against these new rules are planned at the Republican National Convention, in Colorado, and across the country.
Gessler’s approach is similar to one used in North Carolina and Florida: if people used a non-citizen identity card to register their cars, they would receive a letter questioning proof of voter eligibility. Nunez says that approach is flawed.
“Using Department of Motor Vehicles data to do this kind of screening turns back a lot of false positives. Someone may have been a resident alien when they got their driver’s license, but then they become a U.S. citizen, and then register to vote.”
And she says it’s not clear what will happen if someone fails to respond to the request.
“We all agree that only citizens should be voting in our elections. But the system that the Secretary of State has taken has real flaws.”
Gessler has said his approach maintains the integrity of the voter rolls and makes sure, in his words, “that legal votes aren’t cancelled out by illegal voters.”
The Brennan Center report is at www.brennancenter.org.