October 29 2008, 11:55 AM
Senior U.S. District Court Judge John L. Kane, Jr., a registered independent, will hear arguments today on whether to issue a temporary restraining order that would prevent the Colorado secretary of state from removing voters from registration lists between now and Election Day and would reinstate those who were removed after July 21, 2008. The lawsuit was brought by Common Cause of Colorado, Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, and the Service Employees International Union. The groups allege that Colorado has removed more than 20,000 voters from registration lists in the 90-day period before Election Day. A federal law, the National Voting Act, prohibits removals in this 90-day window, except in the event of death, incapacitation, a felony conviction, or if the voter asks to be removed. Secretary of State Mike Coffman says there has been no malfeasance, just perhaps some mistakes. Is that really the cast? To find out, I downloaded a copy of both sides' motions and briefs, read them, and checked their source documents. It's a lot of paperwork. Nonetheless, having declared myself a victim of Sudden Election Fatigue Syndrome, I volunteered. I'm going to break it down into terms the average voter can understand. Policy wonks are free to talk amongst themselves. First, why the rush for a hearing? Common Cause and their fellow plaintiffs write, in their motion for a temporary restraining order(pdf):
With the November 4, 2008 election only 11 days away, any delay will result in thousands of Coloradans being turned away from the polls, irrevocably preventing public participation in the electoral process and undermining the legitimacy of our most valued democratic institutions. There is no way to give a voter back their right to vote in this election, once the day has passed. Without expedited consideration, thousands of Colorado voters will be prevented from vote on election day.Second, what exactly are they asking for? From their motion, these are their demands:
- (1) to immediately desist removing or cancelling the names of any voters from the official list of eligible voters for any reason not provided for in [a specific statute]
- (2) to immediately desist removing or cancelling the names of any voters from the official list of eligible voters in violation of [a specific statute];
- (3) to reinstate the names of any and all voters who were removed or cancelled from the official list of eligible voters since May 13, 2008 for any reason not provided for in [a specific statute]; and
- 4) to reinstate the names of any and all voters who were removed or cancelled from the official list of eligible voters in violation of [a specific statute].
- 12,072 purged voters between July 31 and August 15
- 14, 859 purged voters between August 15 and October 13.
- The total number of purged voters is 26,931, which is quite higher than the 14,049 number provided by Secretary of State Mike Coffman.
Moved out of County/State ****** 6,572 Duplicate ******* 4,434 Failed 20-day period ******* 1,136 Deceased ******* 1,145 Convicted Felon ******* 544 Withdrawn ******* 203 Not a Citizen ******* 13 Voter Fraud ******* 2 TOTAL ******** 14,049With the above analysis, and this report on voter purging by the Brennan Center for Justice, you should now have all you need to follow the hearing and be able to decide how you would rule if you were the judge. If you'd like to read more of the legal documents, you can find the following available in pdf: Complaint, Motion for Temporary Restraining Order, Plaintiff's Brief and Supplement, Secretary of State's (Opposing) Brief. As an added bonus, here is a chart (pdf) showing all Colorado voter registration on July 31, 2008.