Illegal voters are not a problem here
Regardless of what one thinks of Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s attempt to scare up some illegal voters in Colorado, the exercise has at least demonstrated one thing that’s reassuring: Mesa County’s voter-verification system is working just fine, thank you. And so, for that matter, is Montrose County’s.
Gessler’s effort to find immigrants in Colorado who voted illegally began shortly after he took office in 2011. Many observers, this newspaper included, believed the effort was more about Gessler’s political posturing than any actual evidence that large numbers of immigrants — people here either legally or illegally but were not citizens of the United States — were somehow managing to register and cast ballots in Colorado elections.
His initial suggestion that there could be thousands of these illegal voters in the state proved to be woefully overstated. Still, Gessler persevered, and by last July he had identified 155 people statewide as potentially illegal voters. He turned the names over to local district attorneys for possible criminal prosecution.
His office identified one such voter in Mesa County, a man registered as a Republican who voted here in 2010 and 2012. But Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Sheila Reiner and her staff investigated the man’s situation and found he was a citizen who was legally registered to vote.
She turned the information over to Mesa County District Attorney Pete Hautzinger, who determined there was no reason to file criminal charges.
Similarly, Gessler’s office came up with one person in Montrose County flagged as a potential illegal voter.
But Montrose District Attorney Dan Hotsenpiller determined the person in question had moved to the United States when he was a year old and had become a naturalized citizen of this country, along with his parents. He was legally eligible to vote.
“We commend the voter’s responsible conduct and participation in our democratic process,” Hotsenpiller wrote to Gessler.
The Secretary of State also found 17 potentially illegal voters in Boulder County, but Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett determined in August that all 17 were legal. He also said Gessler was sending prosecutors “on wild goose chases for political reasons.”
Gessler is one of four announced GOP candidates for governor in 2014. He wouldn’t be the first politician who sought to score political points with highly public but procedurally dubious actions. It’s unfortunate, though, that he took up the time of county clerks and local prosecutors while doing so, and likely caused a lot of consternation for those citizens incorrectly accused of wrongdoing.
We do agree with Reiner, however. She said the exercise should leave voters feeling “confident our voter rolls are clean and that clerks are doing what they’re supposed to be doing.”