Guest Columns


The so-called ‘voter fraud’ fraud

Contributing Columnist

So what does all this rumored voter fraud really look like? In order for fraud to genuinely threaten Colorado’s democracy it would need to be organized, extensive and a game of large numbers. There would have to be meetings, assignments and a plan. It would require, if not an army, at least platoons of conspirators — perhaps, even collaborators at the clerk’s office or in the voting booth. How could all this unreported collusion avoid the gimlet eye of the law?

The last serious case of voter fraud prosecuted in Denver involved a pair of North Denver octogenarians — Sarah Singer and Marian Rossmiller. Sarah was a Republican District Captain and Marian her Democratic equivalent, and they were the best of friends. They served as veritable “angels” to voters in the many senior centers that dot Northwest Denver. They would order up absentee ballots for these shut-ins, assuring their continued access to the sacrament of democratic expression — deliver them to these voters, witness their preferences and return their ballots to city hall. This was no idle pastime. They would collect hundreds of these votes. They even worked the Home for the Blind.

If you were seeking political office, either in the legislature or at City Hall, you had to take this pair into account. They had worked their trade for decades, and while everyone suspected many of their clients were likely incapable of casting an informed ballot, consciousness being a requirement for said exercise, they also had a lot of friends. And, who wanted to be the first to pick on two little old ladies who simply wanted to extend the electoral franchise to the homebound? Eventually it happened, however, and a reluctant investigation was launched. Although I never knew for certain, I’ve always suspected it was a disgruntled Dale Tooley supporter fed up with the huge margins that Bill McNichols always piled up on the Northside.

In any event, the inquiry uncovered a can of worms beyond imagining. Many voters attested they had never seen their ballots, didn’t even know they had voted, or explained that they were told, “We know you’re a Democrat, honey, so we’ve marked your ballot for you. Just sign here on the envelope. Thanks, love!” Now, that’s fraud — organized deceit with the intention of influencing an election result. They received an appropriate slap on the wrist, and were forbidden from collecting absentee ballots or serving as poll workers for the remainder of their natural lives and each paid a small fine. After all, who really wanted to throw two 80-year old grandmothers in the slammer?

Which brings us back to the rampant voter fraud that so concerns Secretary of State Gessler and his Republican colleagues. Surely there is the occasional voter who returns two ballots. The widespread reliance on absentee and ‘permanent’ mail ballot instructions opens the door to just such chicanery. I still get ballots for the campaign worker who resided in my basement last year, and I could easily return it at little risk of discovery. When I was working on the monorail project study along I-70, it became apparent that our mountain counties, where second home ownership runs as high as 80 percent, is plagued with ballots mailed to residents in Kansas, California and points beyond. I don’t blame them for desiring a voice on local issues affecting their properties, but are they careful not to vote twice for President — once here and once there?

Who knows? This could be readily checked, but it seems likely that most of these miscreants would prove to be Republicans. Yes, I know that a handful of Democrats own ski condos, but what are the odds, really? In any case, the hound dogs of law enforcement are not baying at their heels. It’s unlikely their votes make much of a difference. If you want to put your finger on the election scales in a 50/50 state like Colorado, you require a strategy that shaves one or two percent off the total vote. That means tens of thousands of ballots — far beyond the reach of the most enterprising amateurs. You need the law on your side. You have to disqualify bunches and bunches those whose opinions you disapprove.

Presto — why not demand voter IDs at the polling place? You, and most of your friends will receive your ballots in the mail, and promptly return them. Who still bothers to actually show up at the polls: the old, the poor, the inattentive and, well, the diverse (you know who I mean). Challenge them! Ironically, when we all still trooped to polling places in our neighborhoods, election judges provided a first rate defense against fraud. They actually recognized you, or would ask questions when they didn’t. This summer we have had a chance to see how these ID laws actually work.

In the Indiana primary, a 90-year old couple that hasn’t driven in ten years — a tip of the hat to their collective good sense — were asked to cast provisional ballots. They had no way to travel to the clerk’s office during the following week to establish their identity so their votes were thrown out. Too bad for Mitt Romney, as it turned out. The Republican County Clerk estimated that for every voter prevented from casting a ballot in error, a hundred legitimately registered voters had also been turned away. He refused to estimate the proportion of these that were Democrats. Want to take a guess? (Here’s a hint: in major urban areas served by mass transit, nearly 20 percent of residents don’t bother with drivers’ licenses).

Miller Hudson lived in North Denver for many years and represented the area in the Legislature for two terms in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He still has his ear to the ground in the neighborhood.