Elections, Politics, Wayne Laugesen

Caldara can't be prosecuted for following Colorado voter law

When Jon Caldara used the far left’s new “anything goes” voting law to his advantage, by merely obeying it, left-wing activists called for his head. They demanded prosecution. They won’t be happy with the result of a state investigation.

After an extensive, months-long inquiry by the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, Caldara has been cleared. We say “cleared” because the attorney general can find no reasonable means of prosecuting him. That’s not going to change.

icon_op_edAt issue is HB1303, which must be fixed in the legislative session that begins this month. The bill eliminates nearly all protections against voter fraud and facilitates same-day registration. It allows someone to register and vote by merely espousing an “intention” to make the relevant jurisdiction a permanent home.

This became a major concern in the September recalls of then-Senate President John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, and then-Sen. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo. It’s a major concern in the upcoming race for Colorado’s 6th congressional district – pitting Republican Rep. Mike Coffman against former Democratic House Speaker Andrew Romanoff – which will be a national spectacle involving big money from special interests.

Morse and Giron faced recall after pushing through an array of bad laws, including HB1303. With anything-goes registration, each side feared the other would deploy special-interest voters claiming their intentions to relocate to the relevant districts. If impassioned voters fear their opponents will exploit an election loophole, they have no choice but to abuse it themselves. That’s why election laws have to be airtight. They cannot contain vague language that legitimizes bad behavior.

Caldara, president of the right-leaning Independence Institute, set out to educate the public about problems with HB1303. An inherently boring topic, Caldara focused the public’s attention by announcing his plans to show up in Colorado Springs District 11 to vote in the Morse recall. A Boulder resident, Caldara would claim an intention to make District 11 his permanent home – as explicitly allowed by HB1303. He cast a blank ballot.

Caldara covered himself by signing a residential lease with a friend and longtime resident of District 11. The friend was El Paso County Deputy District Attorney Mark Barker. Because Barker works for him, District Attorney Dan May referred criminal complaints about Caldara to Attorney General John Suthers.

First Assistant Attorney General Robert Shapiro, in a Dec. 3 letter of finding, said he could neither confirm nor disprove Caldara’s self-affirmation of an intention to make District 11 a permanent home.

Of course, Shapiro could not prove another man’s residential intention. That was Caldara’s point. People come and go and change their minds all the time on a basis of unforeseen circumstance. People lie about intentions. That’s why we’ve long required a modicum of residential stability before allowing someone to vote in a community election. We want voters who’ve invested at least a few weeks in a locale before helping determine who governs it. We want voters who actually live in a jurisdiction, not those willing to espouse intended residency for the sake of promoting special interests.

Shapiro distanced the attorney general’s office from Caldara’s action, writing: “The office of the Attorney General does not condone Mr. Caldara’s choreographed actions . ”

Why not? This was a slam dunk for the cause of fair elections. If prosecutors can’t charge someone who exploited the law, after summoning cameras and reporters to the scene, they certainly can’t contend with run-of-the-mill abuse committed in silence.

State prosecutors, along with all others who care about fair elections, should thank Caldara for exposing problems with a new law that clearly undermines the integrity and fairness of elections.

Wayne Laugesen is editorial page editor at the Colorado Springs Gazette, where this piece originally appeared.

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