Right-wing media push false narrative about noncitizens registering to vote in Colorado

A simple computer error sent promotional material about voter registration to people who weren’t eligible and wouldn’t be allowed to register. The right is treating it as a scandal.

The Colorado secretary of state’s office mistakenly sent 30,000 postcards containing voter registration information to noncitizens, an accident that right-wing media outlets are treating as evidence of election fraud. The promotional material was not a registration form, and the ineligible recipients would still have been prohibited from actually registering to vote if any of them had tried to do so.

The news was initially reported by Colorado Public Radio, and spread quickly across right-wing media outlets after it was picked up by The Associated Press and Fox News’ website. The postcards were sent to eligible but unregistered voters as part of Colorado’s partnership with the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a nonprofit dedicated to ensuring voting rolls are accurate. But the mailing list drawn from the Colorado Department of Revenue driver’s license database did not include formatting to exclude ineligible noncitizens, according to the secretary of state’s office. (In reality, it is very rare for noncitizens to attempt to register to vote due to harsh penalties that can include deportation.)

Conservatives have repeatedly targeted ERIC with baseless conspiracy theories, and although this episode showed that there are checks in place to protect voter rolls, that hasn’t stopped right-wing media from attempting to weaponize this story in their long-running fight against voting rights.

Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon covered the issue on his podcast while interviewing Colorado election official Tina Peters, who is facing 10 felony and misdemeanor charges for allegedly helping breach security and make copies of Colorado voting records. (She has pleaded not guilty and a trial is set for next year.)

“They can game the system anytime,” Bannon said. “Just thank God they got caught this time or you would’ve had 30,000 noncitizens registered to vote, tipping the scales in Colorado.” 

“And we may still have,” Peters responded. “There’s no guarantee that we won’t.”

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Citation From the October 11, 2022 edition of War Room: Pandemic, streamed on Real America's Voice

Dinesh D’Souza, a conservative propagandist whose election denial film 2,000 Mules has been widely debunked, shared an article on the Colorado story from right-wing blog RedState. The outlet claimed that “blue state election systems remain dysfunctional” and suggested Colorado’s election system “is run by partisans looking to juice turnout for their own benefit.”

The Federalist’s write-up of the story used scare quotes around the words “mistake” and “error,” implying that the act was deliberate. Breitbart did the same in its tweet promoting the story.

Misinformation peddler John Solomon shared his website’s piece on the story, and the Daily Caller tweeted out its own version with the quote, “Safe and secure, remember?” Glenn Beck’s The Blaze also covered it, as did conservative blog Townhall.

A communication official for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) shared Fox News’ tweet, and commented, “Give me a break.”

Actor and conservative pundit James Woods weighed in as well.

The Colorado secretary of state’s office made a mistake, caught it, and owned up to it. Rather than reporting that process as evidence of reliable guardrails functioning to protect the voting system, conservative media is trying to manufacture this episode into a scandal.