The unconstitutional election law rushed through the Legislature by Senate President John Morse may facilitate supporters from outside his district in voting against the politician’s recall.
“All you have to do is walk into a voter service polling center, claim that you plan to reside in the district, and vote,” said El Paso County Clerk Wayne Williams, an attorney who testified against the Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act.
Few Coloradans had a chance to learn about it the late-hour bill before it was too late. The law removes most election checks and balances and allows Election-Day registration. Voters need not show positive identification.
“A homeless person can walk in and claim he intends to live under the Cimarron bridge,” said Williams, who characterizes the election reforms as “radical.” “That’s now his residence and under that scenario we might not be able to prosecute, even if we suspect fraud.”
Hard to believe, but read that portion of the law: “If a person moves from one county or precinct in this state to another with the intention of making the new county or precinct a permanent residence, the person is considered to have residence in the county or precinct to which the person moved.”
It doesn’t matter if the person “moved” 30 seconds before voting.
That provision, plus Election-Day registration, minus positive identification equals: anything goes. Advocates call it a model for the nation.
Imagine impassioned supporters or opponents of Morse decide to make the best of the law. They could pay transients from any community, with cash or food, to board buses or vans and travel to a polling center in Senate District 11. Each voter could claim “the intention of making” District 11 a permanent home and vote as instructed. Those willing to make up names and four final digits of a Social Security number can vote repeatedly throughout the day. Williams said nothing in the system would stop them.
“It’s an incredibly irresponsible law,” Williams said. “We fought very hard against it. I testified in both the House and Senate and explained a number of these issues.”
One need not be homeless to commit voter fraud, but Williams explained that anyone with permanent roots outside District 11 may regret pretending to live there.
“We will attempt to prosecute after the election, but it’s not something we can prevent during the election,” Williams said. “If you give us an address in the district and we send mail to you at that address, we’re going to investigate if it gets returned.”
That’s great, but it doesn’t solve the problem of genuinely homeless voters who declare an “intention” to live in the district. Those who think political operatives won’t exploit the homeless to abuse this law do not understand political passion. People on all sides of this campaign work day and night and devote substantial amounts of capital in hopes of affecting the outcome. Transporting out-of-district voters to the polls, to do something legal under the Morse-sponsored election law, hardly seems an unlikely maneuver.
Morse co-sponsored the election bill with Sen. Angela Giron, a Pueblo Democrat who also faces recall. The Morse/Giron bill wasn’t introduced until April 22, long after recalls were organized against them. Motive? We don’t know. It’s a thing that makes you go “hmmm.”
The Morse recall came about because the senator displayed disregard for rule of law and values of his community. The election law, which a judge ruled partly unconstitutional, is one more example of the senator’s poor judgment.
Don’t take our word about his disregard for order. Listen to the cops.
“Morse has ignored us and our concerns,” wrote police officer Tim Ives, treasurer of the Colorado Springs Police Protective Association. “During his time in the Senate, John Morse didn’t ask for our input once on public safety issues and consequently passed legislation that made our jobs tougher,”
The police union complains that Morse tried to reduce penalties for identity theft and worked against a bill to increase punishments for sex crimes against children.
“He’s working against rank-and-file police officers and must be stopped. We need a change,” Ives wrote.
None should be shocked that a politician who advocated lower penalties for identity crimes also opposed his county clerk’s request that voters show IDs.
We have fair elections because of rules. We have state and federal constitutions to keep politicians from unraveling fundamental protections of life, liberty and pursuits of happiness. Morse tried to circumvent those laws – even wreaking havoc with election security. It’s one more reason so many in his district want him recalled.
Wayne Laugesen is editorial page editor for the Colorado Springs Gazette, where this op-ed originally appeared.