A spokesperson for the Basic Freedom Defense Fund, the NRA-backed group behind an effort to recall two Colorado Democratic state senators over their votes for stronger gun laws, baselessly claimed on NRA News that the campaign of recall-targeted Senate President John Morse was plotting to commit “massive amounts of voter fraud including ballots possibly even being mailed in from Chicago.”
Reacting to an August 12 court decision which will necessitate that the recall election be conducted with polling centers instead of solely through mail-in ballots, BFDF spokesperson Jennifer Kerns said the change could stymie what she described as a plot by Chicago-based groups hired by Morse's campaign to commit voter fraud by sending in fraudulent ballots from out of state. From the August 13 edition of Cam & Company on NRA News:
KERNS: The state of Colorado, in keeping with its crazy election year tradition, the state of Colorado passed a very controversial same day voter registration bill that completely changed the election laws in the state of Colorado and turned this election into an all mail ballot election.
Well we've been bracing ourselves for massive amounts of voter fraud including ballots possibly even being mailed in from Chicago. As you know, John Morse and his campaign, as they say follow the money in politics, he has hired -- even his own political consulting firms are from Chicago. They represent the Chicago Federation of Labor, the AFL-CIO and AFSCME, some of the hardest players in politics. So we've been bracing ourselves for an all mail-in ballot situation where you could potentially have ballots coming in from people out of the state.
Kerns added, “I think it's much harder for the Democrats to cheat if they have to do it in person. They have to spend their time and treasure busing people in to try to commit fraud.”
The registration fraud scenario described by Kerns -- where out of district or state individuals would use Colorado's same day voter registration law to obtain mail-in ballots -- has circulated in state conservative media, but is in fact based on a misreading of Colorado's new election laws.
According to emails from the office of Colorado's Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler obtained by the Colorado Springs Independent, the same day voter registration law cited by Kerns only allows individuals who already live within the district to register to vote. Furthermore, prior to the enactment of new voting laws Colorado already had a rarely used same day voter registration provision known as “emergency voting.”
Some conservative media incorrectly interpreted the registration law to allow voting by out of district individuals who profess a fake intent to move into the district. For example, the conservative Pueblo Chieftain editorial board erroneously claimed the new law would allow outsiders to vote in the election “but then later say they had a change of heart and have abandoned plans to move into that jurisdiction.” According to Gessler's office, however, “The 'intention' language is only relevant after the elector moved.”
The NRA is reportedly coordinating recall efforts with BFDF. In May, as BFDF sought to gather enough signatures to trigger recall elections, the NRA Political Victory Fund distributed a mailer that stated, “your NRA is coordinating a recall effort with the Basic Freedom Defense Fund to put Senator Morse on the ballot for a special election and vote him out of office.”
[Chet Hardin, accessed 8/13/13]
In an April press release, the NRA wrote it “fully supports” the BFDF's recall efforts and that Morse's “actions [in support of stronger gun laws] are not those of an elected official and warrant swift action in his removal from office.”
Kerns appeared on NRA News on August 14 to make additional baseless warnings about Democratic voter fraud in the recall election and challenged Morse and recall-targeted Sen. Angela Giron “to sign a pledge, a commitment, that their campaigns will not participate in any voter fraud in these upcoming recall elections.”
Addressing her earlier accusation that political firms hired by Morse could be plotting to mail fraudulent ballots from Chicago, Kerns stated that shortly after she made the original allegation that she observed two staffers from Organizing for Action (OFA) in Pueblo, Colorado, the site of one of the recall elections, which means that she is “not so off base after all”:
KERNS: A couple of hours after getting off of [Cam & Company] yesterday, I was accused of sounding the alarm bells that there were Chicago influences coming into the state of Colorado to affect the two historic first ever recall elections. Well lo and behold within a couple hours of that I just so happened to be in the town of Pueblo, Colorado, which is the site of one of our two recall elections, and happened to run into on the sidewalk, in this tiny town of Pueblo, Colorado, two operatives from OFA, Organizing for America, from Chicago. So it turns out I'm not so off base after all.
Reached for comment earlier on August 14 by Slate reporter Dave Weigel, Kerns cited the presence of OFA staffers in Pueblo as evidence of her allegation that fraudulent ballots could be mailed in from Chicago.
Kerns also warned of another purported plot by Democrats to commit voter fraud in the recall elections, claiming that “there's already reports that people are going to be bused in. There was a large article in The Colorado Observer a few days ago that talked about this new trend of quote unquote gypsy voters being bused in or being driven into the district.”
The derogatory term “gypsy voter,” which suggests that voters who live outside the district can participate in the recall election, has been promoted in Colorado conservative media, and like Kerns' accusation about mail-in ballots from Chicago, is based on a misunderstanding of Colorado's new same day voter registration law.