State of Colorado: Voter rolls not flawed

Jason Auslander
The Aspen Times

A legal foundation that recently accused 10 Colorado counties, including Pitkin, of having more registered voters than residents of voting age used overly simple criteria to come to that conclusion, a Colorado official said in a recent letter.

“The legitimacy of Colorado’s voter rolls cannot be viewed solely by comparing raw voter registration numbers to census data,” Suzanne Staiert, Colorado’s deputy secretary of state, wrote in a letter to the Public Interest Legal Foundation.

Further, the Secretary of State’s Office does “not believe that any Colorado county has violated the (National Voter Registration Act’s) list maintenance requirement,” Staiert said in the letter.

The Public Interest Legal Foundation, a voter-rights nonprofit law firm, wrote letters last month to 10 Colorado counties, alleging they had more registered voters than residents of voting age. Pitkin, Mineral, Hinsdale, Summit, Dolores, San Juan, Ouray, San Miguel, Cheyenne and Boulder counties all appeared on the list.

The Colorado Secretary of State’s Office responded in the five-page letter dated Sept. 30 explaining why the foundation’s criteria was too simplistic.

After receiving the letter, Colorado officials compared the latest voter registration numbers in each of the 10 counties with voting-age-population projection levels from the Census Bureau. They found that seven of those counties show more registered voters than the projected number of people 18 or older, according to the letter.

However, “a closer look at the numbers shows that there are far fewer active voters in these counties than you identified and that many voters are scheduled for cancellation once the law will allow for it,” Staiert’s letter states.

That’s because Voter Registration Act rules don’t allow inactive voters to be canceled immediately. A clerk must observe a set of rules that includes a voter not participating in two consecutive elections in order to do that. Consequently, “counties have many voters on their rolls who are scheduled to be and will be canceled once the (registration act) clock tolls,” the letter states.

Also playing into the equation is the fact that nearly “every county (the foundation) contacted has a uniquely mobile population,” according to the letter. Most have seasonal or transient workforces, the result of tourism, oil-and-gas and gaming jobs, which make rolls swell with people who move frequently, the letter states.

Noel Johnson, an attorney with the Public Interest Legal Foundation, said in an email about Colorado’s letter that “while it appears some progress has been made, it is troubling that seven counties still show more registered voters than the number of residents over the age of 18.”

“We hope additional efforts are made to clean up the voter rolls prior to the 2016 election,” he said.

According to the foundation’s original letter, the number of registered voters in Pitkin County is allegedly 105 percent of the county’s population.