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Colorado liberal group wants information on people who withdrew voter registration

With the sign for ballot drop off in the foreground, election judge Ed Wingfield waits for motorists drop off ballots outside the Denver Election Commission headquarters on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, in downtown Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Thousands of voters in Colorado have withdrawn their voter registration for fear their information will end up in the hands of the Trump administration. But a Colorado Open Records request has revealed that one liberal public policy group in Colorado has requested the very information voters feared would be turned over to federal officials.

ProgressNow Colorado has requested “all publicly available voter registration and history records for Colorado registered voters… who voluntarily withdrew their voter registrations between June 28, 2017 and July 14, 2017” in 10 Colorado counties.

Ironically, it’s the same public information that Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams agreed to turn over to Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity earlier this summer before being told by the commission to hold off when the request was challenged by the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

More than 3,500 voters across the state have unregistered as of July 14. Many did so hoping it would avoid their information — name, birth year, party affiliation and where and when they voted — from being sent to the Trump administration. According to the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, Democrats are withdrawing their voter registration at a rate five times higher than Republicans are. 54 percent have been Democrats, 33 percent are unaffiliated and 10 percent are Republicans. 

“I am fully aware of the irony and embrace it wholeheartedly,” said Ian Silverii, executive director of ProgressNow.

Silverii said the organization isn’t quite sure what it’ll do now that they’ve sent out the requests and received some of the information back. ProgressNow doesn’t want to fuel the current paranoia, Silverii said. But rather make sure people have accurate information about what is happening, and what isn’t happening, with their voting records.

The ultimate goal, Silverii added, is to re-register the people who have unregistered and help people understand their vote has not been disclosed, but whether and where they have voted is, and has been, public record for a long time.

PULP obtained the ProgressNow CORA request, sent by ProgressNow’s Alan Franklin, to Pueblo County via an open records request. The Denver Elections Division and Mesa County also confirmed to PULP they received the same CORA request from Franklin.

ProgressNow said the organization sent 10 requests total.

“I did think there was some irony there,” said Mesa County Elections Director Amanda Polson about the request from ProgressNow, adding that she had no problem turning it over since it was public information.

Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert ‘Bo’ Ortiz offered the same reaction. The clerk went on to say that the number of voters that have withdrawn their voter registration has been surprising, 84 have withdrawn as of July 14. There have been 92 requests for voter data to be confidential. Overall, Ortiz said the number of people withdrawing their voter registration is minor compared to how many are registered — there are more than 100,000 voters in Pueblo County. But it did come as a shock, especially after there were no voters that unregistered in the month of June.

In Colorado there are 3.7 million registered voters. Williams, along with several other political leaders, have encouraged voters to remain registered or re-register if they have unregistered.

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Written by Kara Mason

Kara Mason is PULP's news editor. She is also the Society of Professional Journalists Colorado Pro Chapter president. Kara freelances for other regional publications, covering government, politics and the environment.

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