Election official urges GOP to watch polls

Gessler, Dem critics battle over voter fraud

TAMPA, Fla. – Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler encouraged Republican activists Thursday to get involved in poll watching and counter Democratic efforts this Election Day.

In a brief speech to Colorado’s delegation to the Republican National Convention, he encouraged people to work with True the Vote, a poll-watching organization that grew out of a Texas tea party group.

Gessler told the delegates stories about his days as a Republican lawyer when he fought election day battles against the Democratic legal team.

“I was amazed at the level of organization and preparation they had for that election day,” Gessler said.

He said he has heard stories about outright voter fraud in Colorado, but he has not been able to investigate because the records are gone.

“We don’t have people watching. It happens away from our eyes, and those problems occur most where we don’t have people watching, not so much in, shall we say, El Paso County or the red area of Weld,” Gessler said, naming two of Colorado’s Republican strongholds.

Gessler’s critics said his actions are out of bounds for the state’s top elections official, whose job it is to make sure elections are fair for everyone.

Joanne Schwartz, head of Progress Now Colorado, said her group also cares about integrity in voting.

“There is a big difference between that and with what Gessler and organizations like True the Vote are actually doing,” Schwartz said in an email. “True the Vote has built a brand around their work to go into areas that have higher populations of older voters and people of color. They scare voters, intimidate them and hold up their ability to cast a vote.”

Gessler has spent the week at the Republican National Convention in Florida, but that hasn’t kept him from several controversies back home.

His office had sent letters to 3,903 Coloradans questioning their citizenship and warning them they might be ineligible to vote. Eighty-six percent of the letters went to Democrats and unaffiliated voters, The Associated Press reported.

On Thursday, Gessler’s office said it had identified 177 people who need additional verification, and 42 of them had actually voted in a past election. Sixteen people withdrew their registrations.

“When some races hinge on just a handful of votes, every vote counts. My goal is to make it easy to vote, but tough to cheat,” Gessler said in a news release.

Also Thursday, Colorado Public Radio reported that Gessler waived more than $20,000 in fines for each of three proponents of ballot initiatives in 2010 after a judge found they had violated campaign-finance laws. The initiatives sought to limit taxes and public debt, and court proceedings revealed they were linked to anti-tax activist Douglas Bruce.

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