Federal judge will hear Colorado voter purge case Wednesday
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
DENVER ” Election watchdog groups have agreed to wait until Wednesday to make their case about why they think election officials have illegally removed thousands of people from Colorado’s registration rolls.
Groups including Colorado Common Cause and the Advancement Project want U.S. District Judge John Kane to first stop clerks from removing the names of any more voters before Election Day and then order Secretary of State Mike Coffman to reinstate an estimated 30,000 voters they believe were wrongly purged.
With only a week left before Election Day, Kane was going to take up the first issue during a hearing Monday until he could hear more about why the groups think that voters were illegally purged.
However, Colorado Deputy Attorney General Maurice Knaizer requested that Kane address both of them at the same time. With clerks busy preparing for an expected record turnout on Nov. 4 and conducting early voting, Knaizer said it would be easier to give them one final directive about the registrations in dispute rather than a half-answer that could be overturned after the evidence is heard.
“The counties are buried. This is an extraordinary election,” Knaizer said.
Kane said he would address both issues Wednesday after lawyers for the groups agreed to reschedule.
Coffman issued a written statement stating again that he believes Colorado has followed all applicable laws. He said he hopes to resolve the case quickly.
“Voters can rest assured that maintaining accurate voter rolls is our top priority,” he said.
Also Monday, Coffman’s office released an informal attorney general’s opinion siding with him in a dispute with clerks in two of the state’s largest counties. At issue is whether new voters who failed to check a box indicating that they didn’t have a driver’s license or a state ID should still be allowed to cast ballots.
Under state law, voters can provide part of their social security number instead but they’re also supposed to affirm that they don’t have a driver’s license or state ID. Coffman told clerks that voters who didn’t check the box couldn’t be registered until they corrected their forms. But officials in Jefferson and Larimer counties went ahead and registered voters who didn’t check the box because they said other laws give the voter the benefit of the doubt.
Despite the opinion backing Coffman, his spokesman, Rich Coolidge, said it’s too late to make Jefferson and Larimer reverse course and require that they go back and unregister voters that they’ve already approved. Representatives of both counties didn’t immediately return calls.
Meanwhile, in counties that did follow Coffman’s directive, 4,789 people didn’t check the box on their forms. Clerks have been sending out notices to let people know they need to correct their forms. Coffman said those people can still vote, but will have to do so by casting a provisional ballot at the polls Election Day.
The purge lawsuit alleges that Colorado has violated federal election law in two ways.
First, the groups say that 3,291 voters were removed from the rolls because election notices that were sent to them were returned as undeliverable. That’s what is required under state law but, in the suit, the groups say that still violates federal law.
Earlier this month, a federal judge ordered election officials in Michigan to stop automatically canceling registrations for similar reasons.
Secondly, the groups estimate that as many as 26,931 voters were illegally removed from the rolls between July 31 and Oct. 31 ” within 90 days of the general and primary election.
That’s an extrapolation based on a comparison of the voter rolls between Aug. 15 and Oct. 13, which showed that 14,089 names that were on the earlier list were missing from the later list. Federal law says that voters can’t be removed from the rolls within 90 days of an election unless they have died, been convicted of a felony or requested that they be removed. The groups allege these voters weren’t removed for any of these reasons.
Lawyers for both sides declined to comment outside the courtroom.
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