Mea culpa: the uproar over Colorado voter data rolls

“We applaud Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams for turning over only that data that is legally releasable, and dismiss as politically opportunistic calls from some that he should have turned his back to the commission’s request entirely.” –The Grand Junction Sentinel

Hundreds of Coloradans have called, e-mailed or written to the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office in recent days, urging Secretary Wayne Williams to refuse to turn over public voter roll data to a commission appointed by President Donald Trump.

Had Williams announced he had no intention of doing so, he might have been a hero to some judging from the angry comments we have received. He also would have been breaking the law and setting, he believes, a dangerous precendent.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, right, addresses the National Association of Secretaries of State last week in Indianapolis. To his left is California Secretary of State Alex Padilla. (Photo credit: Jonathan Hawkins Photography for NASS)

“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,’” Williams said at a news conference last week.

“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.”

In the meantime, Williams sponsored a resolution unanimously adopted this week at the National Association of Secretaries of States’ summer conference in Indianapolis. It reiterated that states are in charge of elections.

The furor over the White House’s request was felt from sea to shining sea, but I feel guilty about the depth of the angst in Colorado.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams talks to the Colorado media about a request from a White House commission for voter data. (SOS photo)

When our office issued a press release about the commission’s request for sweeping voter data, it included this quote from the secretary: “We are very glad they are asking for information before making decisions. I wish more federal agencies would ask folks for their opinion and for information before they made decisions.”

That quote referred to the previous paragraph in the news release, which noted that the commission also sought election officials’ views and recommendations on seven specific issues. I thought it was clear that Williams’ quote referred to the issues. Clearly, it was not because a number of news outlets reported Williams commended the commission for asking for the voter data. CNN said he was one of only three secretaries of states to do so.

That news was compounded by the myriad inaccurate reports about which states told Trump “no.” Many states, including Colorado, told the commission it couldn’t release publicly identifable information, such as Social Security numbers, but would provide what was allowed under the law. Yet states with the identical position as Colorado were listed as “no” to Trump.

9News reporter Brandon Rititman had a pretty good tweet about Social Security numbers: “It’s also worth noting, even tho CO won’t share it, the federal government already has your SSN. It gave it to you.”

In addition, the Grand Junction Sentinel and The Denver Post wrote editorials supporting the secretary’s position.

“At best, the commission is on a wild goose chase. At worst, it is based on a lie. Study after study has found that voter fraud is exceedingly rare. At worst, it is laying the groundwork for voter suppression,” the Post wrote. “In Colorado, like most states, why someone wants a record is almost always irrelevant. All that matters is that the record is public. Anyone from a blogger in Boulder to the president’s commission can receive Colorado voter registration records.”

The commission originally asked for the voter roll data by this Friday, but on Monday it notified election officials that it was halting the request because of a legal challenge.

1 thought on “Mea culpa: the uproar over Colorado voter data rolls”

  1. Lynn, I was at the meeting tonight where you spoke on this topic and I’ve read your post here. What offends me about all of this is that this is a presidential commission that was created on the basis of a demonstrably bogus twitter post of this president. Taxpayer money is being expended because he is in a snit over the popular vote count.

    Secondly, the commission is being headed by a man who AGREES with Trump’s completely false claim that there are something like five million fraudulent voters. This calls into question what could be a hidden agenda to create public policy that makes it more difficult or impossible for ‘certain groups’ of people to vote. We’ve seen this happen in many states and now it could be possible at the national level, and a Republican Congress would be ripe for such chicanery.

    Williams claims he has no choice, but I wish he would have shown a bit more resistance as many states have done, including with lawsuits.

    To cooperate with a twitter-inspired commission headed by a strong partisan in providing the names of millions of Colorado citizens offends me deeply.

    Quote the media outlets that support you, but if — two or three years from now — the greater fears of people of me are realized, you will all look rather foolish for having been such a willing enabler of this fraudulent comission.

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