Denver searches for fix to voter registration problems

Denver Elections Director Mike Scarpello (left) and Clerk and Recorder spokesman Alton Dillard in the city's elections headquarters. (Photo/Bob Spencer)
Denver Elections Director Mike Scarpello (left) and Clerk and Recorder spokesman Alton Dillard in the city

Denver’s election director, Mike Scarpello, said he is concerned about the possibility that thousands of people will come to the polls on Nov. 4 and find that they are not registered to vote. And he’s looking for a way to fix the problem.

At least 6,700 new voter registrations—and, by one estimate, as many as 10,000—were rejected by county clerks statewide because of the so-called “check box” problem. The new voter registration form in Colorado asks individuals without a state driver’s license or identification card to check a box indicating as much and enter the last four digits of their Social Security numbers. However, many would-be voters neglected to check the box, or used their social security number when they did indeed have state identification. The discrepancy has prompted clerks to delay registrations until the individuals amend their forms.

In the past, the Denver Clerk and Recorder’s Office downplayed the gravity of the problem. Last week, spokesman Alton Dillard said that “the talk going on about people being denied the right to vote because of this is incorrect.” Around 3,000 individuals in Denver filled out incomplete forms and 1,000 of those have been fixed. But the clerk’s office still has 5,800 forms to process, which means that more “check box” applications will likely surface.

On Tuesday Scarpello said he is in discussions with the Secretary of State Mike Coffman’s office to remedy the issue. Scarpello is looking into allowing individuals with incomplete registrations to “cure” their forms at the polls on Election Day, a fix he believes to be kosher under state law. But he admitted that there may be legal issues to contend with; add to this the fact that the new voter database, called SCORE, may not be equipped to handle last-minute changes to voter registration.

Yesterday, a group of activists from several watchdog groups demanded that Coffman immediately fix the “check box” problem by admitting incomplete registrations. Rich Coolidge, spokesman for the Secretary of State, has not responded to requests for comment, but according to The Denver Post, Coffman hasn’t budged on the issue.

“Whatever the decision the secretary of state makes, we will abide by that,” said Scarpello.

But his office is taking small steps to ensure that “check box” applicants change their forms. Along with the SCORE-generated letter, his office has sent reminders to all would-be voters, asking them to make the fix in person or by mail.

Those who don’t make the changes can vote by provisional ballot at the polls.

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