Republican Secretary of State Gigi Dennis is at it again, making new rules in the heat of election season that are making a mockery of her office and of our entire electoral process. The media has done a good job of staying on top of Dennis’ rulemaking, but there hasn’t been much outrage from the general public because, well, election law is a pretty boring topic. It’s hard to get all worked up over something the secretary of state (SOS) decides to do. That’s too bad, because before Dennis is done, Colorado’s election laws could be a jumbled mess.

Dennis was appointed to her post last summer by Gov. Bill Owens when the elected SOS, Donetta Davidson, resigned to take an election post with the federal government. Republican Treasurer Mike Coffman had already announced his plans to run for the SOS job, so last spring Dennis announced that she would not run for re-election herself. That makes Dennis dangerous, because she doesn’t have to be accountable to the voters for anything she does.

Democrats filed a lawsuit last month to block one recent rule change by Dennis that essentially makes it impossible for labor unions to spend the money they raise through union dues on political campaigns. As The Denver Post reported:

The [Republican’s] attorneys filed documents with Dennis’ office in February requesting limitations on the campaign activities of some traditionally Democratic groups, such as unions and small-donor committees. Dennis, who said Wednesday that politics played no role in her decisionmaking, adopted some of those proposals after a public hearing.

In short, Dennis changed a campaign rule in the middle of a tough election that severely damages Democratic candidates. Both Coffman and Democrat Ken Gordon, who is also running for the SOS job, condemned the maneuver as unfair. Let me repeat: BOTH the Republican and the Democrat running for the SOS job said that Dennis was wrong for making such a major change in the middle of the election season.

But that might not be the most egregious change Dennis has made lately. As the Rocky Mountain News reported today, Dennis just changed a rule that would allow the votes for a candidate WHO HAS DROPPED OUT OF THE RACE to count for his or her replacement.

Votes cast for candidates who drop out of a race up to 18 days before an election now will go to the person chosen by their party to replace them on the ballot. The new rule, adopted Thursday by the Colorado secretary of state, will be in effect during the November general election.

But at least one county clerk thinks it’s a bad idea. “It seems un-American that any candidate can ‘receive’ votes that were actually cast for somebody else,” Adams County Clerk Carol Snyder wrote in an e-mail to an elections official in the secretary of state’s office.

When contacted Monday, Snyder, a Democrat, suggested one scenario in which voters could cast ballots for a popular candidate and unwittingly elect an unpopular one chosen by the party vacancy committee.

Such committees are designated to name replacements when candidates drop out. “People think they’re voting for Mr. Likable, and, instead, Mr. Unlikable is basically inheriting all of these votes,” Snyder said.

It’s hard to overstate how absurd this is. Basically, what Dennis has done is ensured that if you vote for one candidate, your vote will count for a different candidate if that first candidate drops out. You don’t get to vote for who you wanted to vote for.

For example, let’s fast-forward to October and pretend that you have cast your vote via an absentee ballot for Republican Bob Beauprez in the race for governor. A week later, Beauprez decides to drop out of the race and a Republican vacancy committee appoints, say, Tom Tancredo to be the new Republican candidate for governor. Your vote for Beauprez is now transferred to Tancredo.

Would you have voted for Tancredo for governor if you had the chance? It doesn’t matter — it’s no longer up to you.

But here’s the part that really gets me:

[Secretary of State spokeswoman Dana] Williams said there was no immediate or recent case that was driving the push for the new rule.


Dennis is making a complete mockery of Colorado’s electoral system, but what does she care? She’s not running for re-election.