Coffman blasts New York Times

By Chris Bragg
THE COLORADO STATESMAN

Secretary of State Mike Coffman also held a press conference disputing the findings of a New York Times story published Oct. 9 contending that Colorado had illegally stricken thousands of voters from its rolls.

Coffman said the Times was “pretty out to lunch” and its numbers were “way off.”

The front-page Times article cited six swing states — including Colorado — in which voters were removed from voter rolls within 90 days of the Nov. 4 election, even though it’s illegal to remove voters during that time period for reasons other than a voter dying, when a voter notifies authorities they have moved out of state, or if they have been declared unfit to vote.

According to the Times, which examined state records and social security data, the number of people purged from voter rolls since Aug. 1 far exceeds the number of voters who have died or relocated during that period.

In Colorado, about 37,000 people were taken off the rolls in the three weeks after July 21. During that time, the Times found, only 5,100 people moved out of state and about 2,400 died, according to their examination of postal data and death records.

Nearly 100,000 less people are registered to vote in Colorado this election than in 2004, despite strong voter registration drives for this election and a major increase in population over the past four years, the Times found.

However, Coffman provided a very different set of numbers that he said were extrapolated from the SCORE statewide voter registration system. Coffman said 14,049 voters had been taken off the voter rolls since July 21, almost all of them before the Aug. 4 date that would put his office within that 90-day federal window.

In terms of voters who had possibly been removed illegally within 90 days of election — in violation of the National Voter Registration Act — the office had discovered 2,454 voters on a second examination who had duplicate voting records and were taken off the rolls during that time period.

However, Coffman said he believed purging those voters, which apparently were taken off the voter lists through a “system generated” process of SCORE, was “allowed as long as they were not a systematic purge.”

Coffman said he would seek an opinion from the Attorney General’s office on the legality of that purge, and those 2,454 names would be reinstated to voter rolls if the AG’s office said their removal violated federal law.

Coffman said his office was not able to provide data to the Times before their article was written, so he didn’t know why their numbers were so different.

“I have no idea where they got their numbers from. They didn’t talk to us,” he said.

Coffman said he also had not commented for the Times article because of the communications breakdown.

The 14,049 purged voters cited by Coffman were still far more than the number of illegible voter found last December by the Legislative Audit Committee, which examined voter rolls. That committee found there to be a little over 1,100 ineligible voters on the rolls at that point. The difference between then and now, Coffman said, was that the SCORE voter registration system was not in effect at that point to pick up all the illegal voters.

And why was Coffman concerned enough to hold a press conference about an article from a publication many Republicans consider to be a liberal east coast rag?

“Personally I have very little concern about the New York Times,” Coffman said. “I’m worried about voter confidence. I think the central issue is voter confidence.”