Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler has asked the Department of Homeland Security to provide his office with the citizenship status of about 4,500 registered voters — his latest tactic in an ongoing effort to remove noncitizens from the state’s voter rolls. “It is imperative to the integrity of Colorado elections that we ensure only U.S. citizens are registered to vote and voting in our elections,” Gessler wrote in the March 8 letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. Critics of the move agreed only U.S. citizens should vote but said Gessler is going to extremes during a crucial election year — in a key battleground state — to address a problem that his office so far has been unable to quantify.
Elena Nunez, executive director of Colorado Common Cause, also said that bringing in an agency like Homeland Security may have a chilling effect and that any attempt to match databases is ripe for error. “Even if you are eligible, the environment that creates can be suppressing,” Nunez said. “And this is high-stakes.” But Rich Coolidge, the public information officer for the secretary of state, said Gessler is obligated to enforce Colorado election law. “That’s what he’s doing,” Coolidge said. “To turn a blind eye to it is not an appropriate path.”
The roughly 4,500 names come from people who provided a noncitizen document — such as an alien-registration card, or “green card” — when they applied for a Colorado driver’s license and who also are registered to vote. About 2,000 of those people have cast ballots in recent Colorado elections, Coolidge said. The list may include people who are in the country legally but are not citizens and who — intentionally or not — registered to vote, either when getting a driver’s license or through some other method. It also may include those who became citizens after applying for a driver’s license, Coolidge said.