Ireland is target of out-of state polling
Local voters are receiving calls from an out-of-state organization offering to send absentee ballots to anyone willing to vote to remove County Commissioner Mick Ireland from office next month.
The people making the calls introduce themselves by saying they are with an organization called Capital Research and are conducting a poll. They then ask if the voter plans to vote in the Aug. 8 recall election, and then if they plan to vote for or against Ireland, according to several people who have been contacted.
If a person says he plans to vote to retain Ireland the poll is over. But when one Ireland supporter asked what would happen if he said he would vote to remove the commissioner, the poll taker told him an absentee ballot would be mailed. State law doesn’t permit absentee ballots to be sent by private organizations.
“Suddenly, there are people with a stake in this election who don’t know me, who have no idea who I am, who are simply doing it for money,” Ireland said.
The source of the money behind the effort remains a mystery, because the poll takers say they don’t know who is paying them. Attempts to reach the Campaign to Recall Mick Ireland and the Common Sense Alliance last night to find out whether they are paying for the poll were unsuccessful.
“They called me last night [Tuesday]. I asked them who had hired them and they said they don’t know,” said Pitkin County Clerk Sylvia Davis.
Ireland said one supporter familiar with political polling told him the cost of such an effort could run anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000. “This is like the New Hampshire primary,” he said, referring to Vice-President Al Gore’s use of polling tactics to derail opponent Sen. Bill Bradley.
Also contacted was Pitkin County Democratic Party chairwoman Camilla Auger. The woman questioning Auger was unable to name the organization conducting the poll, and had no idea where it was located.
“Then I asked her where she was located and she said Cincinnati, which suggests it is an out-of-state polling organization,” Auger said.
Like Davis, Auger thought she was simply being polled. Both women told the questioner that they planned to vote to keep Ireland in office, and were politely told the poll was over.
Accountant Terry Schaefer asked a few more questions and found out the motive behind the question. “She me asked – yes or no – if I was going to vote to retain Ireland, and I told her I was going to tell her how I planned to vote,” he said.
“Then I asked her, `What if my answer was yes – that I was going to vote to remove Mick?’ And she said there would be an absentee ballot sent to me.”
Schaefer said he then told her that he planned to vote to retain Mick in office.
“They can’t just randomly send out absentee ballots, but my thought is they are sending applications for absentee ballots,” said Davis, whose job includes overseeing elections.
Both Davis and Auger said they were surprised that the campaign against Ireland was so well organized and funded. And Davis wondered if the polling was going to be disclosed as an expenditure by the Campaign to Recall Mick Ireland.
“This goes from being research to mobilization,” said Auger. “But that’s what people do when they get interested in a political issue.”
Davis also wondered how the organization found the phone numbers of registered voters, because the voter registration lists in her office don’t have many. She said the county started asking voters for their phone numbers just a few years ago.
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