The charge has been dropped in what’s believed to be the first voter fraud case set for trial since Secretary of State Scott Gessler urged district attorneys statewide to prosecute people who purportedly are cheating Colorado’s election system. Mike Michaelis was scheduled to be tried today for allegedly procuring false information on a voter registration form. Michaelis, 41 and now in construction, registered voters in 2012 on behalf of Work for Progress, a nonprofit that, as its website states, campaigns “for social justice, a fair economy, consumer protection, clean energy, and the environment.” On a voter registration form submitted to Michaelis by Aurora resident Lydie Kouadio, a box was marked saying she is a U.S. citizen. Gessler’s office determined she isn’t. Her name was among 155 voters the Secretary of State deemed to be suspicious. Last June, Gessler sent prosecutors lists of residents in their districts for possible prosecution. In Arapahoe County, District Attorney George Brauchler’s office investigated Kouadio along with the 40 other people in his district Gessler was targeting. Instead of prosecuting Kouadio, Brauchler’s office charged Michaelis based on Kouadio’s claims that Michaelis filled out the registration form for her.
Prosecutors continued pressing the case even after Michaelis’s lawyer gave them documents clearly showing that the handwriting on Kouadio’s registration form is the same handwriting on a ballot she cast in that year’s election – a ballot on which a box asking about her U.S. citizenship also was checked. Identical handwriting on the registration form and on the ballot form completed nearly two months later makes it clear that that Kouadio, not Michaelis, filled out Kouadio’s voter registration. Still, Brauchler’s office assured Kouadio that “no criminal charges will be filled against you” even though she apparently broke the law by voting as a noncitizen. In that same letter, she was notified that she would be a witness in Michaelis’ case.
State laws are clear that noncitizens can’t vote and that canvassers can’t fill out registration forms for prospective voters. But the law doesn’t put the burden of proving citizenship on the canvassers. Michaelis had no way of verifying Kouadio’s citizenship while standing outside the Arapahoe County Social Services Building registering voters for about $10 an hour.