Counties get creative on ‘check box’ flaw on voter registration applications

(Photo/unquiet, Flickr)

(Photo/unquiet, Flickr)

With Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman unwilling to budge on incomplete voter registrations, several counties across the state have come up with partial resolutions on their own.


The ever-evolving “check box” drama has to do with the state’s new voter registration form. Applicants without a state ID or a driver’s license must indicate as much by checking a box and then giving the last four digits of their social security numbers. But at least 6,700 new would-be voters–and as many as 10,000 by one estimate — neglected to check the box. Several thousand have since cured their applications, but many more remain barred from voter rolls.

While counties throughout the state have warned “check box” applicants to fix their registrations before Election Day, a few localities have gone above and beyond. According to the Rocky Mountain News, election officials in Larimer and Jefferson counties absorbed the incomplete registrations into their rolls, asking only that these applicants show IDs at the polls to vote.

Coffman decried the practice. “It is absolutely essential that election law be uniformly applied to every voter across this state and anything less than the equal treatment of all voters compromises Colorado’s ability to hold fair elections,” Coffman told the News. Despite mounting pressure from state and national voting rights groups, he has maintained that applicants must cure their registrations to appear on the rolls.

Meanwhile, elections officials in Denver County have deployed a robocall to remind applicants with incomplete registrations to cure their forms before Election Day. “We will work hard to get these voters in our poll books come Nov. 4,” Clerk and Recorder Stephanie O’Malley said during a conference call with reporters this morning.

Denver fielded around 4,000 incomplete voter registration forms (this includes those with “check box” and other problems), and all but 1,400 of those have been cured. O’Malley said that she asked Coffman’s office about placing these individuals on the rolls anyway — as Larimer and Jefferson counties have done–but was met with a resounding “no.”

“It was an effort on our part to have inclusivity, but the Secretary of State’s office, standing firm on the letter of the law, said we could not place these applicants on the poll books.”

But counties are not the only ones that need to address the issue. One voter registration group set up an online database with the names of every person with a problem application in the state. New Era Colorado, which registered 12,000 voters in the state, urges people to use the searchable database to make sure they’re not on the Secretary of State’s incomplete list.

“[Coffman] can and should issue a directive to the county clerks to allow anyone with a valid identification to vote in Colorado,” New Era Colorado’s executive director, Steve Fenberg, said in a press release. “In the meantime, New Era Colorado will at least provide the information to voters so they can complete their applications. Voting in a democracy is too important to let anyone lose their right because of misinformation.”

Applicants who don’t cure their registrations before Election Day may vote by provisional ballot. These ballots are tallied in the two weeks following the election. However, provisional voters must still fix their registrations for their votes to count.

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Naomi Zeveloff

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