Secretary of State: More than 11,000 Registered Voters May Not Be Citizens

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - A new report suggests that thousands of non-citizens may be registered to vote in Colorado, concerning local elections officials.

As part of an effort to get new voter verification laws passed, Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler announced Tuesday that his office has identified more than 11,000 people who are registered to vote but may not have been citizens when they did so.

Wednesday, a State House Committee will take up a bill (House Bill 1252) that would allow the Secretary of State's Office to check voter rolls against state and federal databases to determine citizenship.

As Colorado continues to emerge as a key state during elections, leaders say "every vote counts"

But should every vote actually be counted? That's what Secretary of State Scott Gessler is trying to find out.

"People need to recognize there's a problem here," said Gessler. "And we need to solve it."

His office recently conducted a study, comparing state driver's license records from 2006 on to state voting rolls. 2006 is when driver's license records began including what type of document an applicant presented to prove they were in Colorado legally.

"We determined there were 11,805 people that we know of, who when they got their driver's licenses were non-citizens and then registered to vote," said Gessler.

According to the report, from August 2006 to mid-February 2011, the Colorado Department of Revenue issued 211,200 drivers licenses to legal non-citizens. Of those 11,805 are registered to vote in Colorado.

Breaking the numbers down further, 106 non-citizens registered to vote on or before the day they applied for their drivers licenses. The remaining 11,699 registered to vote after getting their drivers licenses.

"Some of those people may have become citizens and registered to vote," said Gessler. "We think that some of them were not citizens when they registered to vote."

The report also states that 4,947 people on that list cast ballots during the 2010 elections.

"I am unaware of anyone in Mesa County who is a non-citizen who also registered to vote," said Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Sheila Reiner.

Under Colorado law, County Clerk and Recorders are responsible for voter registration and running elections within their counties.

Reiner says to date, no one has ever questioned a local citizen's right to vote using the avenues that are currently available -- and she and her staff take pride in running fair elections.

"I really feel like it's an allegation against our role in the process," said Reiner.

She says she's disappointed the Secretary of State's Office did not consult her or other clerks when doing their study -- and that they have not been provided with the data before or since it's been released.

"It's troubling that we were not a part of the process ahead of time," said Reiner. "I wish the Secretary would have given us the opportunity to look at the list and let him know if it was correct or not."

Gessler says he has every intention of releasing that data to county clerks, if he's able to verify he's legally allowed to.

"I don't think it speaks poorly of Clerk and Recorders at all," said Gessler. "They just don't have the statutory authority to do these types of checks."

If House Bill 1252 becomes law, anyone who is suspected of being improperly registered would be notified, then given 90 days to present proof of citizenship. If no such proof was given, that person's name would be given an incomplete status on voter rolls.

Similar legislation to require proof of citizenship to vote failed in the Democratic-controlled Senate earlier this year.

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