Perhaps Secretary of State Mike Coffman finally read his own memo on the new rules he recently instituted prohibiting elections workers from engaging in partisan activities in response to a brewing voter file scandal in the office.
Enveloped in controversy after it was discovered that he was on the GOP rubber chicken circuit despite the new policy, Coffman’s remarks at the monthly Larimer County Republican Party luncheon were relatively focused on election issues, be they here or in Iraq. Coffman began his remarks with a personal anecdote of being sedated for an endoscopy to alleviate esophogeal swelling caused by acid reflux, which he claims was the result of his tour of duty in Iraq and being forced to eat MREs or as he dubbed them “meals rejected in Ethiopia.”
He whispered as he succumbed to the anesthesia, “I think we’re going to get attacked tomorrow.” His wife standing vigil at his bedside attributed the remark to reliving a combat experience. Then, a drowsy Coffman continued, “but we can respond in the editorial pages” to approving laughter.
He devoted a good portion of his time to discussing official elections activities including his opposition of HB 07-1313 that he framed as weakening documentation for obtaining a state identification card or drivers license. Coffman claims that the legislation, now awaiting signature, is unnecessary because it reduces Gov. Ritter’s rulemaking authority by locking the requirements into statute and will create public safety and fraud risks. Colorado Media Matters debunked that argument since any new rules must comply with stringent Department of Homeland Security standards.
With Clerk and Recorder Scott Doyle in the audience, Coffman sung the praises of vote centers which Doyle pioneered in Larimer County. Now, there are 20 Colorado counties implementing vote centers across the state. Coffman also mentioned the five counties that had election problems, noting that Douglas County had the dubious distinction of casting the last vote in nation of the 2006 election at 1:30 a.m.
Remarking on the cost-savings provided by vote centers and Sen. Ken Gordon’s new legislation that allows a voter to choose a permanent mail-in ballot option Coffman said, “You have to suit up in every single precinct, you have to have staff, DRG machines and pollworkers, that’s a very challenging thing to do especially in low-turn out election, like a primary.”
He continued his unprepared speech providing commentary on the current situation in Iraq and a primer on Islam, peppering his remarks with the constitutional and parliamentary elections in which he participated as a military adviser.
In contrast to President’s “surge” strategy of sending additional troops to Iraq, Coffman mentioned the “loss of momentum” several times which he attributed to the military’s inability to stem the al Qaeda insurgency. He said that he expects the war to continue long after U.S. and coalition troops leave the country because of the chaos that exists between the religious sects that are exacerbated by al Qaeda attacks on civilians.
Questions from the two dozen Larimer republicans focused nearly exclusively on the situation in the Middle East.
The lone exception was a question about the latest immigration reform bill winding its way through Congress. Coffman responded that he did not know enough about the bill to comment specifically but believed that any legislation that didn’t emphasize border security would ultimately fail.