Watchdog Group Sues Colorado Secretary Of State For Illegal Voter Purge

Advancement Project was founded on the principle that structural racism can be eliminated and a racially just democracy may be attained through multi-racial collective action by organized communities.  They are a national voter protection agency, their lawsuit was filed in federal court Friday. It alleges that Coffman violated federal election law in two ways.  Advancement Project is challenging the illegal purges and cancellation practices of  Colorado Secretary of State, Mike Coffman that have removed between 16,000 and 30,000 voters from Colorado’s rolls.

“These purge programs violate a federal law that is intended to protect eligible voters from being swept off the rolls,” said Penda Hair, co-director, Advancement Project. “The state admits engaging in these practices and purging thousands of voters’ registration records without notice. We felt that filing this action was the only way we could ensure that thousands of Colorado residents would not show up at the polls on Election Day only to find they could not participate in this historic national election.”

Advancement Project is challenging two types of purging practices by the state as violations of the National Voting Rights Act (NVRA).

First, Secretary Coffman has implemented a Colorado law requiring cancellation of new registrations when a non-forwardable notice sent by mail to the voter is returned as undeliverable within 20 days of receipt of the registration application. As recently determined by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, a state law mandating cancellation of new voter registrations because a mailed notice was returned as undeliverable violates the NVRA and cannot be enforced. These 20-day cancellations have removed several thousand eligible voters. Coffman has admitted, 1,136 of these voters were purged between July 21 and October 9. Moreover, his records show that 3,291 of these voters have been purged since August 2007.

Second, in an action not required by any Colorado law, the Secretary of State has removed tens of thousands of voters from the official voter rolls after August 4, 2008, in violation of the NVRA, which bans systematic removal of voters from the rolls within 90 days of a federal election, except for narrowly specified reasons. Secretary Coffman issued a statement on October 9, 2008 admitting that at least 12,000 voters have been purged from the rolls within this period for reasons not permitted by the NVRA. More importantly, Advancement Project has substantial evidence that during the NVRA’s 90 day no-purge period, defendant Secretary of State actually removed more than 20,000 voters’ registration records from Colorado’s voting rolls, in addition to the 1,892 who were removed for the NVRA-allowed reasons because of death, incarceration for a felony, or withdrawal.

“Our concern is that the systematic removal of voters will continue up to November 4, 2008, potentially barring even more voters from the polls,” said Jessie Allen, senior attorney, Advancement Project. “Purge programs of this type are a blatant violation of federal law. The state of Colorado is obligated to follow the rules set for all states by the NVRA to protect voting rights.”

Coffman says he believes he has fully complied with all laws on voter registration and cancellations.  It seems wherever you look, if there is voter suppression the Republicans or the RNC is behind it.

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