As the countdown to the closing of polls begins, a questionable number of same day voter registrations surfaced in Boulder County, including a large amount of student registrations. Students need nothing more than their college IDs to register as new voters. No student ID? No problem. Anyone can register with just a utility bill.
The newly enacted “Voter Fraud Act” that ushered in a mail-in only ballot system also created same day voter registration with relaxed identification requirements—and no mechanism for verifying Colorado residency or even US citizenship. In lieu of proof of residency, all that is needed is an affidavit of residency—akin to registering to vote on the honor system.
Chuck Broerman, chief deputy of the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder’s office (who is running unopposed for El Paso County Clerk and Recorder) stated in a phone interview, “Under the new law, the registrant must establish 22 days of residency and sign an affidavit of residency. We have to follow the law.” He said that there is no system in place to cross check for dual registrations in other states. Broerman acknowledged that there is no check for US citizenship either. The county assumes the respective registrant is being truthful when signing the affidavit of residency, under penalty of law.
A non-citizen residing in Colorado could feasibly show a student ID or utility bill, sign the affidavit of residency, and receive a ballot. This is not just an issue for those with intent to commit voter fraud, but for non-residents who do not have a full understanding of election law.
Aggressive voter drives seen at colleges across the state have led to a surge in voter registrations by students. Broerman reported that he saw a spike at one of the El Paso County vote centers following an event featuring Senator Mark Udall at Colorado College. He confirmed that a number of students registered using only their student ID.
In Boulder County, poll watchers reported “droves” of new registrations the day before election day, with many of them coming from students. Ellyn Hilliard, the Boulder County GOP Chair, verified that poll watchers from three different sites submitted reports of 15-25 new registrations ongoing per hour. That’s a total of 45-75 registrations each hour using observation numbers from only three of Boulder County’s 16 vote centers. Hilliard said that poll watchers expressed concerns about voter fraud due to the possibility of registrations from students living on campus who may already be registered in another state.
The effectiveness of voter drives among populations who favor Democrat candidates coupled with the potential for abuse due to the relaxed voter registration laws, leaves some Republicans wondering if it could cost them the election.
One Boulder County poll watcher recalled seeing only one Republican among a list of 54 new voters she recorded at a vote center servicing a large amount of student traffic. She shared in an email to Hilliard: “I questioned (the judge) whether someone was going to check to see if some of these students were also registered in other states. He could only say that this is apparently supposed to happen, although some states don’t have computer systems which interact with ours. There are tens of thousands of students at CU, many of whom are from other states. This could significantly affect our election outcomes if they are voting here when they are actually registered elsewhere. I realize this may be unresolvable at this point, but it is cause for high concern.”
Hilliard pointed out that many of the new voter registrations among students were created using student IDs and that there have been registrations using newly issued driver’s licenses less than a week old. People were also registering to vote using their utility bills—which is legal. “If we lose this election, it’s going to be because of voter fraud and same day registration,” said Hilliard.
A student from Colorado State University in Fort Collins came forward to share the get-out-the-vote effort that amounted to—in her words—harassment. Kati Werst described the voter drive scene on campus: “There were golf carts all over with signs reminding people to vote. One cart even had a Vote for Jared Polis sign. People came to my off-campus apartment, but they were going door to door too. They were really pushy, constantly harassing you to register. Folks living in the dorms messaged each other not to answer their doors because it got so bad. There was also a lot of signage that read ‘Vote F*cker’ which I felt was offensive.”
A voter registration canvasser told Kati’s roommate, “Your vote won’t matter where you are from, but it will matter in Colorado because it’s a swing state.”