Voter Fraud Probed In Colorado by Susan Greene and Karen E. Crummy

© 2005 by Susan Greene and Karen E. Crummy, Denver Post

Reproduced under the Fair Use exception of 17 USC § 107 for noncommercial, nonprofit, and educational use.


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Double dippers, felons targeted

Thursday, March 24, 2005 — Hundreds of Coloradans are being investigated for voter fraud in the November 2004 election.

Prosecutors in at least 47 counties are probing cases involving accusations of forged signatures, felons voting or people who attempted to vote twice.

At least 122 voters gave new meaning to the adage "vote early and vote often" by apparently casting absentee ballots through the mail, then showing up in person to vote on Election Day. And, officials say, at least 120 felons statewide cast ballots and now face possible prosecution.

So far, there have been at least two indictments — both in El Paso County — and prosecutors expect more to follow elsewhere in the state.

"Obviously these numbers are higher than we want them to be," said Dana Williams, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Donetta Davidson, who was not available for comment Wednesday.

It's unclear whether prosecutors have enough evidence in the cases to prove criminal intent.

More than four months after the November 2, 2004, election, 47 of 64 counties have reported voting irregularities to Davidson's office. This is the first year the state has required reports on suspected voting fraud.

Scrutiny of voting practices increased dramatically in Colorado and elsewhere in the nation after election snafus in Florida held up the outcome of the 2000 presidential race for weeks.

Counties also referred possible criminal fraud to their own district attorneys.

The Denver Election Commission, which experienced by far the most voting problems, failed to meet Davidson's March 11 deadline for reporting cases to the state. On Wednesday, an election official told The Denver Post that 81 Denverites voted twice and 52 felons cast ballots.

Last week, Jefferson County's election department sent 286 cases to its district attorney to investigate. Of those, 30 involved people who attempted to vote twice, and 256 stemmed from ballots bearing suspicious signatures.

Jefferson County election director Susan Miller noted that voters probably didn't succeed in having more than one ballot counted because her county has safeguards to make sure only one vote per person is tallied.

Miller's staff discovered the signature problems by comparing signatures on 130,000 absentee ballots cast in Jefferson County with those signed on voters' registration cards. That process is required by a state law passed in 2003.

Colorado is one of a handful of states that require election officials to verify signatures on mail ballots.

"Colorado has substantially more security measures than federal law requires and more in combination than virtually any other state," said Mary Wickersham, who analyzes state election laws.

In October, The Post found as many as 6,006 felons who should have been ineligible to vote were registered to do so in Colorado. State law says that "no person while serving a sentence of detention or confinement in a correctional facility, jail, or other location or while serving a sentence of parole shall be eligible to register to vote or to vote in any election."

Davidson last fall said she was unaware state felons were registered and pointed blame at the state Department of Corrections for failing to give her a list of prisoners and parolees. Corrections officials, in turn, said she never asked.

Davidson later passed a set of emergency rules requiring counties to flag the names of felons on registration rolls. Felons were allowed to cast emergency, or "provisional," ballots as a matter of policy because Davidson didn't want to "needlessly disenfranchise anyone."

In El Paso County, election officials turned over 23 cases of prisoners or parolees who voted.

"This is the first year we would have caught them because of the emergency rules," said Marguerite Duncan, El Paso County's election manager.

But felons may be tough to prosecute because many, especially parolees, didn't know they shouldn't vote.

"They don't make really good criminal cases because it's difficult to prove criminal intent, that there was a knowing violation of election law," said 4 th Judicial District Attorney John Newsome in El Paso County.

Bill Thiebaut of Pueblo's 10 th Judicial District countered that felons are responsible for knowing the law.

"If people violate it, sometimes you just have to send a message that they have to be more cognizant of what's going on," he said.

In the Arapahoe County-based 18 th Judicial District, officials reported several cases of voters mistakenly filling out and signing their spouse's ballots, and residents submitting ballots sent to voters who previously lived at the same address.

A husband and wife in Douglas County each cast absentee ballots, then cast provisional ballots at the polls for fear their mail-in votes wouldn't count.

"They were not trying to intentionally vote twice. They just wanted to make sure their vote counted. Those aren't the kind of cases we'd be likely to prosecute," said spokesman Mike Knight.

"What you'll see is a lot of stuff forwarded to the DA and almost no prosecutions," Wickersham added.

Election-law changes proposed recently by Davidson and state lawmakers deal less with voter fraud than with tightening security around voter-registration drives. Bills stem from news last fall that some workers who were paid to sign up new voters were forging registration documents.

Fourth Judicial District officials have indicted Joseph Battles and Keith Bohannon on 19 and 29 counts of forgery, respectively, related to voter-registration drives. Battles is set for arraignment in May, and Bohannon is scheduled for a jury trial in June, Newsome said.


Staff writer Jeffrey Roberts contributed to this report.

Staff writer Susan Greene can be reached at 303-820-1589 or



| EJF Home | Where To Find Help | Join the EJF | Comments? | Get EJF newsletter |


| Vote Fraud and Election Issues Book | Table of Contents | Site Map | Index |


| Chapter 10 — Voting Problems In The 2004 Elections |

| Next — Vote Counts Don't Add Up In Alaska |

| Back — Election Problems In Florida — 2004 |


Added June 4, 2006

Last modified 6/14/09