AG’s office backs Coffman’s response to New York Times

Removal of duplicate registrations defended

By Chris Bragg
THE COLORADO STATESMAN

Colorado’s secretary of state faces another major issue concerning voter registration — whether, within 90 days of the election, he was on firmly legal ground when he struck duplicate registrations of 2,454 voters.

Under the National Voter Registration Act, it’s illegal to remove voters from the poll books during that time period unless the voter has died, moved out of state or been declared mentally unfit to vote.

Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman himself highlighted that issue at a press conference Oct. 9, when he disputed a New York Times article asserting that he had expunged far more than 2,454 voters from the books.

Coffman announced at the press conference that he would ask the Attorney General’s Office whether it had been legal to remove those 2,454 voters within the 90-day window, considering that they were removed because of a “system generated” process of SCORE, and not a “systematic purge.”

The Attorney General’s Office issued an opinion last Tuesday supporting Coffman’s decision and the logic behind it.

“The voter with duplicate registrations is in a different category [than a voter with only one registration],” wrote Deputy Attorney General Maurice Knaizer. “The deletion of all but the most recent registration does not prevent the voter from voting. The removal merely ensures that the voter will not receive or cast multiple ballots.”

Colorado Democratic Party Chair Pat Waak was unhappy with the opinion, however, and issued a statement calling the decision of Republican Attorney General John Suthers “an 11th-hour ruling to endorse the Republican secretary of state’s purging of voter rolls.”

“We hope this is the end of the concerted GOP effort to deny voters their rights and to create obstacles to voter participation at a time when Coloradans are eager for change,” Waak said.

Suthers responded to Waak’s statement with a colorful statement of his own.

“On Oct. 14, my office issued an informal opinion authored by deputy attorney general Maurice Knaizer, a 30-year veteran of my office whose integrity is above reproach,” Suthers responded. “The opinion confirmed the legality of actions taken by county clerks and the secretary of state to purge duplicate registrations from voter lists, leaving an individual’s most recent registration intact. This is to prevent multiple votes by the same person — seemingly a noble goal. The opinion is sound as a matter of law and common sense.

“I understand there’s a lot of gamesmanship in politics, Pat. But is it really necessary to respond with vitriolic boilerplate that has the potential to further frustrate public confidence in the electoral process? I would suggest that even politics doesn’t justify such irresponsibility, and I would encourage you to stop occasionally and think about the consequences of unnecessary partisanship, especially when such sniping undermines the foundation of our democracy.”

In an indication that the job of secretary of state can be pretty difficult sometimes, while Waak was hammering Coffman for removing too many people from the rolls, Al Kolwicz, a Republican voting-integrity activist, filed a Help America Vote Act complaint against Coffman for failing to remove enough voters from the books.

The complaint asks the U.S. attorney general to look into the matter and potentially bring a civil action against the state of Colorado.

Kolwicz says SCORE is not working properly — and that 10,217 duplicate names should be removed from the ballot that have not yet been removed.