Levy calls Gessler’s bluff: says he should prosecute those who vote illegally

Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, told the Colorado Independent Thursday that she was calling Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s bluff to prosecute individuals who may or may not be improperly on Colorado’s voting rolls.  She said, that despite claims made by both Gessler and bill sponsor Rep. Chris Holbert, R-Parker, that the bill is a soft means to ensure a secure election, the bill had far more to do with politics.

“If [Gessler] really believes people who aren’t citizens have been voting in Colorado elections, he should refer them to the Attorney General or the appropriate district attorney,” Levy said. “The fact that he hasn’t done so strongly suggests that this is more a political issue than a real election issue.”

The bill designed by Gessler has been pointed to by the Secretary of State and others as a way to weed out individuals improperly on the voter rolls, without prosecuting them.

The Republican sponsor of the bill, Rep. Chris Holbert, R-Parker, said that the only option the Secretary of State has to rectify the potential problem of improperly registered voters is to turn over voter information to district attorneys and encourage prosecution.

“Would you rather have someone who is registered to vote and is not eligible–would you rather have them receive a letter in the mail or a knock on the door from a prosecutor,” Holbert said.

The bill would require the secretary of state to check Colorado voter databases against other state and federally run databases to determine the eligibility of a person to vote. Those databases include, but are not limited to the Department of Revenue, jury recusal lists and federal immigration and customs databases.

“House Bill 1252 provides a low cost, soft touch to purging our voter registration database of people who are not eligible to be registered and therefore not eligible to vote in our elections,” Holbert said.

If the bill were to pass, individuals who are identified through database matching as suspected of being ineligible to vote would receive notification in the mail. They would then have 90 days after they or their families signed a letter of receipt for the notification to provide proof of citizenship.

For those born in the U.S. who cannot afford to pay for their confirmation of citizenship, the state would pay for its acquisition. As currently written, Colorado would not be asked to pay for naturalized citizens documents.

Gessler has said in committee hearings leading up to the floor debate that his office found 106 individuals that likely are improperly registered to vote. He said the 106 had obtained a driver’s license indicating their non-citizenship status before or on the same day they registered to vote. Still, Gessler said it was possible that they have become U.S. citizens since the time of their registration.

“This study…is conclusory, it is based on supposition, it is based on conjecture,” Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, said. “The problem with this is that the Secretary of State is relying on an inference that a person was not a citizen when they registered based on information in a database that is not maintained for that purpose.”

Levy said the databases used did not have requirements that they be updated nor was there any idea of the timeliness of when information is entered.

“This bill creates the presumption that you are guilty until proven innocent and that is not the way this country functions,” Levy said.

The bill was lambasted Thursday by Democrats who called the bill a solution in search of a problem and said Gessler already had the right to purge voter rolls of ineligible voters without the help of new legislation.

Republicans in turn said they were charged with ensuring a secure voting system and said this was the bill to do just that.

The bill will likely pass the House but should face a stiff challenge in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

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