Half the voter fraud cases prosecuted in Colorado have now been dropped before trial.
Eighteenth Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler’s office has dismissed its case against Tadesse G. Degefa, 73, of Aurora, who allegedly registered for a mail-in ballot in 2012, despite the fact that he wasn’t a U.S. Citizen. Brauchler said he couldn’t win the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Dismissal of Degefa’s case comes two and a half months after Brauchler dropped charges, also citing a lack of evidence, in another voter fraud case against canvasser Michael Michaelis.
Statistically, the dismissals are significant because the two voter fraud cases were among only four being prosecuted statewide after Secretary of State Scott Gessler claimed there was an epidemic of voters cheating Colorado’s election system.
Soon after taking office in 2011, Gessler – a longtime Republican election lawyer — said 16,000 non-citizens were registered to vote in Colorado and that he had identified 11,805 people as potentially fraudulent voters because they used noncitizen identification for drivers’ licenses with which they registered to vote.
“How many illegal voters are we willing to tolerate before we start enforcing the law?” Gessler’s spokesman Rich Coolidge was quoted in the Daily Camera last August.
But once secretary of state staffers took a closer look, it became clear that Gessler’s claims about rampant voter fraud were alarmist. Last year, his office identified 155 voters he deemed to be suspicious and passed their names to district attorneys throughout the state, urging them to investigate and prosecute.
Brauchler was the only district attorney in Colorado who investigated. Out of 41 cases that Gessler had identified in Brauchler’s district, Brauchler pressed charges against four voters. Days before the first case was set for trial in June, Brauchler dismissed the charge against canvasser Michael Michaelis, saying evidence didn’t support the allegation that Michaelis procured false information on a voter registration form, as charged. The case against Degefa also was too weak to take to trial.
The remaining defendants – Carl Blocker and Vitaliy Grabchenko– have pending cases related to alleged voter fraud.
Brauchler said his investigation of the cases revealed “that there currently are no reliable safeguards in the Colorado Secretary of State’s voter registration website to prevent false voter registration. In essence, anyone who possesses any other Coloradan’s driver’s license information can register them to receive a mail-in ballot, and can change the address to which that ballot will be mailed.”
Despite a lack of safeguards, Brauchler has said that voter fraud is far less widespread than Gessler had claimed.
“It’s hard to imagine how four of anything would be considered epidemic,” he told The Independent in June, noting that his office handles “far more overdose deaths and murders” than voter fraud cases.
[Photo of seal from Colorado Secretary of State‘s office.]