Hundreds withdraw Colorado voter registrations in response to compliance with commission request

Posted at 2:46 PM, Jul 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-08 00:41:37-04

DENVER – At least two Colorado county clerks say they’ve seen a large increase in the number of people who have withdrawn their state voter registration since Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams said he would send the Trump administration’s election integrity commission some voter-roll information in accordance with state law.

Alton Dillard, a spokesperson for the Denver Elections Division, said 180 people have withdrawn their registration in the county since July 3. When compared to the eight people who withdrew their registration from June 26-29, it marks a 2,150 percent increase, according to Dillard.

Haley McKean, a spokeswoman with the Arapahoe County Clerk and Recorders Office said at least 160 people had withdrawn their registrations since July 1. She added that “dozens” of others had made their voter registration confidential.

The Adams County Clerk's Office said "about 30 to 40" people were withdrawing their registrations each day over the past week. The Douglas County Clerk's Office says it hasn't had anyone withdraw their registration, however.

Though some local elections officials have cautioned people against withdrawing their registration to vote over worries about what the state is sending the commission, telling them to instead register as a confidential voter, withdrawing is an option.

The Secretary of State's Office says that withdrawing may be the quickest remedy since it can be done entirely online, and people can again register at a later date.

To become a confidential voter, people in Colorado can pay a $5 fee and sign a sworn affidavit at their local city or county clerk’s office saying there are concerned they may be subject to bodily harm or harassment if their voter information is made public.

Williams has repeatedly said that he is only complying with state law in handing over much of the already-publicly-available voter information from Colorado voters to the controversial commission, which President Donald Trump ordered the formation of in response to his unfounded claims that millions of people voted illegally in last year’s election.

The commission sent the request to Williams and other secretaries of state on June 28, and the letters became public the next day.

Williams says he will, as state law requires, hand over the full name, address, party affiliation, birth year, and information on whether or not a voter has cast a ballot in elections since 2006. The contents of those votes will not be released, as it is unknown even to the secretary of state and county clerks.

But he won’t give the full birth date or any parts of a voter’s Social Security number to the Election Integrity Commission, as those details are not public record in Colorado.

Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state who is the vice chair of the commission, has himself been sued and scrutinized over voter intimidation and suppression tactics in his home state.

And national media outlets and the White House have been accused of muddying the waters as to what exactly “compliance” with the order means. Several Republican secretaries of state caused waves over the past week when they publicly opposed the order and said they wouldn’t comply with it. Still others called it a waste of taxpayer money.

But many of those “not complying” with the order are doing exactly what Williams and Colorado are doing: only releasing the information that they are required to release under state law to anyone who requests it.

In Colorado, Williams says hundreds of similar requests are made every year by political groups, candidates, and private citizens.

But Kobach’s history and the fact that the commission was only created after the president’s dubious, and possibly false, claims that millions were casting illegal votes haven’t quelled many people’s opinions that the commission is engaging in voter intimidation or suppression tactics by simply making such requests in the first place.

Williams was asked at a Wednesday news conference if he had concerns about the true motives of the commission.

“Are there some on the commission who have a particular thing they are more concerned about than others? I suspect that’s probably true,” Williams said. “But again, Colorado’s response is based on the requirements of Colorado law and not the assessment of the purity of motives of anybody.”

When asked at that same news conference if he knew of Coloradans who were withdrawing their registration, Williams said he’d only heard of other reports from other states.

“I am aware based on third hand reports I’ve had, or second hand reports, that there are a few instances that someone has done that,” Williams said. “I’d remind you that in Colorado actually there is a confidential voter program, so that’s not necessary for folks to mess with.”

And he added that he couldn’t pick and choose when to adhere to state public records laws, as it would create a slippery slope for future public records cases. “Colorado law does not permit the secretary of state, county election officials or anyone else to say, ‘I’m only going to give it to the people I like,’ or, ‘I’m only going to give it to my friends,’ or, ‘I’m only going to give it to the people in my party.’ That is not a provision of Colorado law, nor do you want to put such a provision in place where only favored people can receive that information,” Williams said.

He added that he and the state’s county clerks “are not in the business of picking winners and losers in terms of who can get information.”

Williams was in meetings at the National Association of Secretaries of State summer conference in Indianapolis Friday. Kobach won't be attending however, his spokeswoman, Samantha Poetter, confirmed to Denver7.

"We are in contact with the counties and keeping track of what's going on," his spokeswoman, Lynn Bartels, told Denver7.

Williams says he will send the information required to be released under law over to the commission on July 14, as the commission requested.