When 31,000 foreign nationals are mailed information from state election officials about how to register to vote, there is a problem. That happened in Colorado just before the 2022 elections.
After the news broke about these mailings in October 2022, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold didn’t have an answer why it happened. The office blamed the invitations to register to vote to the 31,000 ineligible residents on a comparison between the Colorado statewide voter roll and the master listing of licensed drivers in the state.
The Public Interest Legal Foundation, of which I am President, investigated how this error occurred and how to prevent it elsewhere, particularly in states that are members of the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC). (RELATED: CHRISTIAN ADAMS: Nevada’s Vote By Mail System Is A Total Disaster)
Through public records requests, we learned what happened out of the public eye. County election clerks were briefed by the secretary of State’s office about a still undefined “data analytic error” that resulted in foreign nationals from 58 counties receiving voter registration materials. State officials still haven’t shared with the public what the analytical error actually was.
The linguistic smokescreen of “data analytic error” from the government seems to have satisfied the very uncurious Colorado media. Local television and print outlets are thoroughly uninterested in the obvious follow up questions: who, how, when, why? The watchdogs are behaving like lapdogs.
What was the “data analytic error”? What stops it from happening again?
Let’s start with the unanswered question of which foreigners were invited to participate in Colorado elections. Notably missing from the briefing to county election officials — or in response to our inquiry — was the names of the foreign nationals who received the voter registration materials in their county.
In fact, when Moffat County officials asked to see more information about the 54 foreigners mailed voter registration materials the Deputy Secretary of State, Christopher Beall, refused citing “potential legal issues.”
That means we won’t know if any of the invited foreigners registered or voted.
Transparency in elections is critical, especially when an error of this magnitude occurs. County officials should have had all accesses to information they needed from Secretary of State Griswold. So should the public.
Colorado’s obligation to mail invitations to the unregistered flows from membership in ERIC. It’s a good thing when people are registered to vote, but foreigners shouldn’t get the invitation. What happened in Colorado was a haphazard version of this process that resulted in foreign nationals being encouraged to register and vote in our elections.
Beyond the vulnerabilities this caused Colorado’s electoral system, it also caused legal consequences for foreign nationals trying to become U.S. citizens. If one of the 31,000 foreign nationals mistakenly believed they were eligible to vote and registered, it would jeopardize his or her application for citizenship. It could even result in their deportation.
The Colorado secretary of State made a large error that jeopardized Colorado’s election process and the foreign nationals it sent these mailing too.
This error was made worse by their refusal to disclose more information to county election officials. Secretary of State Griswold still has the opportunity to come clean about the important questions and fully disclose the mistakes her office made in the 2022 election.
J. Christian Adams is the President of the Public Interest Legal Foundation, a former Justice Department attorney, and current commissioner on the United States Commission for Civil Rights.
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