More than 300 voters purged by Coffman cast provisional ballots

Remember all those voters purged from the rolls by Secretary of State Mike Coffman, many in defiance of a federal court order? Coffman maintained he was well within the law, merely removing voters who had died, moved or filed duplicate registrations, but U.S. District Court Judge John Kane blasted the “obdurate” Coffman at an emergency hearing called four days before the election when reports surfaced that voters were still being purged after an earlier settlement ordered a halt.

Well, it turns out more than 300 of the voters Coffman claimed didn’t really exist showed up and cast provisional ballots on Election Day, and county clerks are only challenging a fraction of them.

According to unofficial numbers provided to The Denver Post on Tuesday, the secretary of state’s office counted “more than 300” provisional ballots — available to voters who believe they’re eligible even if they don’t show up on poll books — from among voters purged by Coffman during the “no purge” period leading up to the election. Under federal law, officials are prohibited from removing voters within 90 days of an election unless that person has requested to be taken off, has died or has been convicted of a felony.

According to the Post, 69 of those ballots have been challenged by county clerks, and are undergoing a review by the secretary of state’s office to determine eligibility. That means at least 231 purged voters aren’t being questioned and would have otherwise faced serious hurdles to having their votes counted if Coffman’s pre-election cleansing had gone unchallenged.

After determining the status of the challenged provisional ballots, the secretary of state’s office plans to turn the results over to lawyers for the voting rights groups that sued Coffman to prevent the late purges, the Post reported.

The litigants reached a settlement with Coffman’s office six days before Election Day, creating a special provisional status for the thousands of voters removed by Coffman in the months before the election. Those provisional ballots would be counted first and presumed eligible unless clerks provided “convincing proof” they weren’t in order.

Coffman maintained his office’s pre-election purges were legal, contending they weren’t systematic, which the law forbade, but rather addressed individual situations with each voter’s registration.

A week after the election, the number of purged voters turned out to exceed 44,000, a far greater figure than the roughly 30,000 Coffman disclosed before the election.

Coffman won election to replace the retiring U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo and is stepping down from the secretary of state position. Gov. Bill Ritter is set to appoint a replacement sometime in December.