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DENVER -- Colorado’s Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler arrived late to testify at the Senate committee hearing, but he came prepared. A practiced courtroom lawyer, he began slowly. He threw in folksy asides. He answered his own rhetorical questions. And he smiled at the majority-Democratic committee members as he railed against the election-reform bill they all support and that he wants desperately to derail. It was a dramatic moment in Colorado politics that had been building since Gessler took office two years ago.
New tallies released by Pueblo County Clerk Bo Ortiz on Thursday put the percentage of "inactive voters" who returned ballots this year at 1,791 or nearly 11 percent of county voters. That's a gain of nearly 5 percentage points from 2009 and well above the previous statewide 3 percent average.
Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert "Bo" Ortiz defended his right to send ballots to "inactive voters" this year over the objections of Secretary of State Scott Gessler. Ortiz told the Colorado Independent he believes his main objective as clerk is to facilitate participation in elections and, on that score, he has succeeded. As of Monday night, 16 percent of the county's roughly 17,000 inactive voters had cast ballots. That's 2,700 votes, nearly 9 percent of all votes cast in the county, which is a lot of votes.
DENVER-- Depending on whether or not related legal action restarts in US district court here, Colorado lawmakers plan to take up the question of which voters county clerks will be required to mail ballots to in future elections.
Richard Allen Smith, Afghan war veteran and vice chairman of national soldier and veteran advocacy organization VoteVets, on Thursday hand delivered a petition with more than 9,000 signatures asking Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler to drop the lawsuit he filed seeking to prevent counties in the state from mailing ballots to inactive voters, including to soldiers serving away from home. The organization is asking Gessler to accept a decision handed down in district court last week finding insupportable Gessler's interpretation of election law in the matter.
Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert Ortiz gave Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler until this morning to specifically and formally address another of the charged ramifications of his new interpretation of state election law. Gessler got in under the wire. Thursday evening, he sent Ortiz a letter ordering him not to send ballots to any of the county's "inactive voters"-- legally registered voters who failed to cast ballots in the previous even-year general election-- including roughly 70 soldiers on the Pueblo County inactive voter rolls serving out of state. In Pueblo as elsewhere in the state, inactive voters are now meant to visit the clerk's office or a polling place to retrieve ballots. With the election a month away, Gessler's directive seems likely to effectively disenfranchise the soldiers.
Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler made national news this week by filing a lawsuit to stop Denver County, and by extension all Colorado counties, from mailing ballots to the state's "inactive" voters. The case drew the attention of voter-rights defender US Reps Charles Gonzalez of Texas and Robert Brady of Pennsylvania, who wrote a letter asking the justice department to investigate. The congressional letter (embedded below) is just the latest alarmed response to Gessler's lawsuit, which has featured howls from the local and national press, complaints from voter activist groups and legal push-back from Denver and Pueblo county election officials. At the eye of the storm, Gessler communications staff has been mostly hunkered down and silent on the matter, spokesperson Rich Coolidge surfacing at last today in a Texas newspaper to dismiss the congressional concerns as political gamesmanship.
In filing suit yesterday against Denver County over its 2011 election plan, Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler has raised the specter for the second time since he took office in January that he is using his position as head of elections not to expand but to suppress voting in the state.