Denver officials and Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler are positioning for another fight over when the clerk’s office may mail ballots to inactive voters — a battle that could have ramifications for the November presidential election. Late last week, Gessler’s office proposed a new rule it says clarifies that clerks may not mail ballots to inactive voters in a “coordinated” election, or an election held simultaneously with another political entity. The issue took on new significance this week, when Denver Public Schools announced it could ask voters in November for a $500 million property tax increase. That would make Nov. 6 a coordinated election in Denver, reopening the debate over whether Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson may mail ballots to inactive voters — who are overwhelmingly Democrats and unaffiliated.
Denver elections officials say they are waiting to learn for certain what will be on the ballot — a decision that won’t come until later this summer — before deciding how they will handle mail ballots. But in a statement today, Johnson, a Democrat, accused Gessler of attempting to create new law through rulemaking. She also ripped the Republican secretary of state for “trying for an end-run around the court” because a lawsuit Gessler filed against Johnson over the issue last year is still pending. “This rule, if enacted, oversteps the Secretary’s authority to interpret existing laws and may create new barriers for voters instead of eliminating them,” Johnson said. “It’s voter suppression, plain and simple.”