Alleged purge of voter rolls does not affect county

According to Archuleta County election officials, purges of local voter rolls this year have followed strict protocols, resulting in a small number of registrations dropped from county rolls.

Following on the heels of a report in the Thursday, Oct. 9, New York Times regarding alleged illegal voter purges in Colorado, the office of the Colorado Secretary of State and the Archuleta County Clerk’s office have been put into the uncomfortable position of assuring voters that nothing untoward has taken place.

According to the article in the Times, Colorado has scrubbed nearly 100,000 voter registrations from its rolls since 2004, despite population gains and significant increases in voter registrations since that time.

The article goes on to allege that “the number of people purged from the election rolls since Aug. 1 far exceeds the number who may have died or relocated during that period,” specifically, 37,000 people removed from the rolls, versus data showing that only 5,100 moved out of state and around 2,000 deaths.

In a press conference, Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman disputed the Times’s charges, stating that the numbers reported in the article were incorrect.

Coffman’s own numbers were strikingly different, showing only 14,049 voters purged during the time frame given in the Times article. According to Coffman’s office, those numbers represent 6,572 voters who either moved out of county or out of state, 4,434 duplicate registrations, and 1,145 deaths. “I have no idea where they got the numbers from,” Coffman said at the press conference, referring to the Times article.

State Democrats have backed up Republican Coffman and have expressed concerns regarding undue issues the Times article may have raised. Colorado Democratic Party chair Pat Waak said that the Times article was “not helpful” to the state or voters.

Locally, the article has had almost no effect. “We had one lady call to ask if we were purging our rolls,” said June Madrid, Archuleta County Clerk, “and we said ‘no.’ We don’t purge until the state tells us to.”

In fact, very few changes have been made to county voting rolls this year. Since January, only 80 registrations have been cancelled in Archuleta County. Of that number, 64 moved out of the county or state, four were duplicate registrations, nine were for deceased voters, and three were withdrawn. Currently, there are 9,266 registered voters in the county and so the number of cancelled registrations accounts for less than 1 percent of the total number of voters.

During the same time, Archuleta County logged 1,042 newly registered voters, “mostly during the past few weeks,” the elections office reported.

Madrid said that most calls to the office concern current voting status. The office can check on a voter’s registration status or a voter can check their status online at www.elections.colorado.gov, clicking the link for verifying voter registration information.

Madrid went on to assure local voters that the county rolls are safe in the hands of her office. “Really, we haven’t purged in years. The only reason to purge is if someone hasn’t voted in two federal elections, and even then we send them a card in the mail to let them know they run the risk of having their registration cancelled.”

With an arguably historic election less than three weeks away, voters across the country have every right to expect the integrity of the process. For all intents and purposes, it appears that voters in Archuleta County can rest assured their votes will be counted.

jim@pagosasun.com