2 voters cleared after Gessler flags legal status
Prosecutors in Mesa and Montrose counties on Wednesday said investigation showed two people — who were identified by Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler as suspected non-citizens voting illegally in local elections and referred by his office for possible criminal prosecution — cast legal ballots as U.S. citizens.
The two people were among 155 identified by Gessler’s office statewide back in July as possible illegal voters.
In Mesa County, Gessler’s office flagged one man, a registered Republican who voted in the 2012 and 2010 general and primary elections, according to Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Sheila Reiner and documents provided by Reiner’s office.
Investigation showed the man voted properly, she said.
“The clerk’s office investigated it and gave me the results, which I found compelling,” District Attorney Pete Hautzinger said, confirming he won’t bring charges in the matter.
Gessler, a Republican who’s announced plans to challenge Gov. John Hickenlooper next year, has been publicly criticized by at least one Colorado prosecutor for his emphasis on finding ineligible voters, who called the effort politically motivated and a waste of resources.
Montrose District Attorney Dan Hotsenpiller on Wednesday said Gessler’s lone referral, a Scandinavian-born voter who permanently moved to Colorado before age 1, lawfully voted in the November 2012 election.
“The voter’s parents are both naturalized U.S. citizens, and the voter is a naturalized U.S. citizen and possesses a U.S. passport,” Hotsenpiller said in a letter to Gessler. “This voter’s status as a U.S. citizen existed prior to the November 2012 election.”
“We commend the voter’s responsible conduct and participation in our democratic process,” the letter continues.
Hotsenpiller’s 7th Judicial District Attorney’s office, which covers Montrose, Delta, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Ouray and San Miguel counties, received the one referral from Gessler’s office in late June for investigation of illegal voting in November 2012.
In Montrose County alone, 20,385 ballots were cast in November 2012, according to the county’s online election records. Mesa County residents cast 73,575 ballots in the same election.
“I think we should feel confident our voter rolls are clean and that clerks are doing what they’re supposed to be doing,” Reiner said Wednesday. “I think the part I struggle with is, we weren’t working with good data (from Gessler’s office).”
Reiner said she was told by Gessler’s office that the lone Mesa County voter, who was flagged as a non-citizen in a federal database, needed to send a written request to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in order to correct the erroneous information.
Gessler’s office in July said the 155 people referred to local district attorneys had presented documents to the Division of Motor Vehicles, and later were flagged as non-citizens through a query of a database maintained by Homeland Security.
They also failed to respond to a mailed request from the Colorado Secretary of State to affirm or deny their citizenship qualifications for voting, Gessler’s office said.
“We can no longer turn a blind eye to this vulnerability in our election system,” Gessler said in a statement issued July 1. “I’ve invited suggestions from legislators and policy-makers on how to better protect the integrity of our voter rolls. When it comes to election integrity, (Democratic legislators) seem to think it’s okay if people break into your house — as long as they don’t steal too much.”
Gessler’s critics include Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett, who in August cleared 17 people who were referred by the Secretary of State to the 20th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
“We don’t need state officials sending us on wild goose chases for political reasons,” Garnett, a Democrat, told The Boulder Daily Camera.