At least 106 non-U.S. citizens — and perhaps 11,000 of them — have been improperly registered to vote in Colorado, Secretary of State Scott Gessler declared Monday.
Those are some frightening numbers, released by Gessler just as a House committee was scheduled to hold hearings on legislation that would give the secretary of state new authority to check the citizenship status of all registered voters in Colorado.
What Gessler didn’t do, however, is contact county clerks with names of potential noncitizens registered to vote in their counties so that they could examine their registrations and potentially purge noncitizens from the voter rolls, said Mesa County Clerk Sheila Reiner. Gessler didn’t even bother to contact county clerks for their assistance as he was checking the names of voters against driver’s license records, she said.
That has Reiner more than a little miffed, and with good reason.
“We take this allegation very seriously,” she said in a statement Monday. But her office needs the names and other data related to the supposed offenders to check them against the local records. When Reiner requested that data, her request was rejected by Gessler’s office, she said.
“It seems premature to make this kind of statement without having fully investigated the issue,” she added.
Gessler also declined to turn the names of the purported noncitizens over to the secretary of state’s office for potential prosecution. He told The Denver Post he’d rather move forward with the legislation first, and explore other options only if the legislation dies.
Here’s hoping that it does.
No, we’re not arguing to give thousands of illegal immigrants a right to vote in U.S. elections. But House Bill 1252 would give the secretary of state new authority to periodically check voter registration lists against other government databases in search of noncitizens. It doesn’t say how often or how the list might be checked, and it offers great potential for waste, posturing and abuse.
Does Person A have a Hispanic surname? Better check them out. Is Person B a political opponent with a foreign-sounding name? Search the files. And if the secretary of state’s office believes people like that are not citizens, they’ll have 90 days to prove otherwise. Then their registration will be listed as “incomplete” and they won’t be permitted to vote.
We believe there should be reasonable protections to ensure proper registration and voting, which is why we have long supported a requirement that photo IDs be used when registering to vote, and have opposed moves to allow Election Day registration.
Additionally, we think county clerks like Reiner, who headed up the Elections Division in the Mesa County Clerk’s office before she was elected clerk last November, do a good job under current state law, ensuring that people who register to vote meet legal requirements, including citizenship.
The numbers that Gessler released this week — at least the high end of those numbers — suggest that clerks aren’t doing a good job, hence the need for HB 1252.
But he seems far more interested in scoring political points in support of that bill than in trying to clear up the irregularities he claims exist. If the latter were his first priority, he would be providing county clerks and the attorney general with the names and other information related to potential noncitizens registered to vote.