DENVER — Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler attended a meeting of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration held at the Colorado History Museum Thursday.
President Obama established the commission in response to the frustrating and uneven experience endured by many voting Americans last year, where confusion, registration complications and long polling place wait-times made headlines around the country.
Outside Thursday’s event, between panel sessions, Gessler chatted with Catherine Engelbrecht, the Texas-based founder of Tea Party-inspired “vote protection” nonprofit group True the Vote. That group was a spinoff from Houston’s main Tea Party group called King Street Patriots. True the Vote examined voter registrations and patrolled vote centers looking for irregularities.
The organization was celebrated on the right for attempting to address voter fraud. It was decried on the left as a conservative voter-intimidation group that concentrated its voter-patrolling activities in ethnically diverse and minority neighborhoods.
In January, in the wake of President Obama’s reelection, Engelbrecht launched True the Vote NOW, a 501c4 “social welfare group” that can act more directly to influence elections. Conservative-politics strategist Karl Rove’s big-money Crossroads GPS is a 501c4, as is the juggernaut Obama campaign spinoff Organizing for Action.
Gessler, who has repeatedly come under fire as an unabashedly partisan official, has rubbed shoulders with True the Vote on several occasions. He has spoken at group meetings. Gessler has also raised the specter of voter fraud repeatedly as secretary of state — in his case to justify tightening up voter registration rules.
True the Vote has shown interest in Colorado voting for years. It held training sessions in the state during recent elections.
This past spring Gessler battled Colorado County clerks over a sweeping election reform bill, HB 1303. It allowed for all-mail elections and early registration. When the bill passed supporters worried Gessler might write rules that would hobble efforts to effect its provisions.
True the Vote rallied supporters to write to the secretary’s office with opinions during the rule-making comment period to help boost the integrity of the state’s elections in the wake of the new law.