A month ago, Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler (R) sent a letter to Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garrett requesting that he verify the eligibility of seventeen voters suspected of illegally voting as non-citizens. The suspicion was apparently based on the seventeen voters submitting a green card or work visa as identification when they applied for their Colorado driver’s licenses. Garnett’s office was able to easily verify that all seventeen voters were in fact legal US citizens who were eligible to vote and that none of the voters had broken any election laws. Garnett questioned the motives of the Secretary of State ‘s probe, stating:
Local governments and county clerks do a really good job regulating the integrity of elections, and I’ll stand by that record any day of the week. We don’t need state officials sending us on wild goose chases for political reasons.
Despite the GOP’s continued efforts to scare the public into believing in-person voter fraud is common, in order to justify their voter suppression tactics, the Colorado investigation reveals once again that in-person voter fraud remains exceedingly rare. Secretary of State Gessler’s Office identified seventeen cases they thought worth investigating and all seventeen came up without a single instance of fraud detected. So far the state of Colorado has identified one case of voter fraud in the last five elections, a single solitary case from 2004 that was discovered too late to prosecute because the statute of limitations had expired.
As a swing state in 2012, Colorado has long been the target of Republican allegations of voter fraud, as they hope to explain away Mitt Romney’s loss there as evidence of fraud rather than as evidence that they ran a flawed candidate who supported an unpopular ideology. In addition to claiming widespread in-person voter fraud the right-wing has made unfounded accusations against election officials in Colorado as well. The site Barack Obama Voter Fraud 2012 ran the sensationalist headlines “Evidence of massive Obama voter fraud in Colorado! Ten counties show 104% to 140% turnout!” The only problem was their math was in error. The truth is that no county in Colorado exceeded 85 percent turnout and the three counties with the highest turnout were all counties carried by Mitt Romney by lopsided margins. Yet, facts have not deterred Republicans from alleging widespread voter fraud even as they fail to identify actual cases of fraud.
The Republican Party’s inability to find more than a single instance of voter fraud underscores their disconnection from empirical reality. Barack Obama won the state of Colorado by over 137,000 votes, but that has not stopped right-wing bloggers and commentators from alleging that he won the state through fraud. However, after the Secretary of State identified a scant seventeen voters in Boulder County that he accused of voting unlawfully and after each one of them turned out to be a legitimate voter, the already thin case for voter fraud has all but evaporated. Stan Garrett is correct in noting that the Republican Secretary of State’s investigation of alleged voter fraud is more a political wild goose chase than it is a serious attempt to root out actual voter fraud, which truth be told, hardly even exists.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.