Although Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler (R) felt the need to question his state’s registered voters about their eligibility to vote, sending a letter earlier this month that asked about 4,000 Colorado residents to provide proof of citizenship, his office has confirmed that at least 88 percent of those voters are indeed U.S. citizens.
Gessler — who ran for office on the platform that “fair and open elections are the foundation of self-government” — sent a letter intended to target “suspected non-citizens” who applied for a driver’s license with a non-citizen document, despite the fact that it is entirely possible to apply for a license before becoming a citizen and before registering to vote. An ACLU public policy director called the letter “intimidating” and pointed out that the registered voters who received it are likely to be “worried that they did something wrong and that their paperwork is not in order.”
After running the voter information for 1,400 individuals through a federal database, however, Gessler’s office verified that the vast majority of the individuals who received the letter did have their paperwork in order and are eligible to vote. There are roughly 168 people remaining to be verified in the database, but an employee in Colorado’s election division acknowledged even this group “may also include people who are citizens.”
Although Gessler denies his attempted voter purge has any political motivation, about 40 percent of his letters were sent to registered Democrats, while only 13 percent went to Republicans. Voter suppression tactics, such as Gov. Rick Scott’s (R-FL) failed voter purge in Florida, do tend to disproportionately target Democrat and Latino voters.
Despite the fact that Republican lawmakers across the country have been pursuing similarly aggressive strategies to tamp down “voter fraud” in their states, the only real threat to democracy is the voter suppression they perpetrate under the guise of stopping it. When pressed on the issue, even the authors and biggest proponents of stringent voter ID laws cannot cite examples of in-person voter impersonation. This is probably due to the fact that a person is more likely to be struck by lightning than commit voter fraud.
Beyond wasting taxpayer dollars to send out unnecessary inquiries, Garrett’s effort may scare legitimate voters but does not appear to have discovered many — if any — illegitimate ones.