Voting rights group sues Colorado secretary of state over purges
Sunday, October 26, 2008 at 6:41 pm
The Advancement Project, a national voter protection organization, filed suit on Saturday against Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman for his alleged illegal purge of tens of thousands of voters across the state.
The organization filed suit on behalf of Mi Familia Vota, the Service Employees International Union and Colorado Common Cause, a group that has been highly critical of Coffman’s election administration.
The groups claim that Coffman violated the National Voting Rights Act and purged between 16,000 and 30,000 voters. Some newly registered voters were removed because voter confirmation forms sent to their addresses were returned as undeliverable. Others were removed because of duplicate registration, felony conviction, death or one of several other reasons. The groups say that Coffman disregarded the NVRA by purging would-be voters within 90 days of the federal election. Some individuals — like felons, for instance — may be purged within this period, but the voting rights groups say that Coffman illegally removed 20,000 registrations that should have been left on the rolls.
The lawsuit seeks to reinstate voters who were removed from the rolls in the 90-day no-purge period, except those who were taken off in accordance with NVRA standards. And the suit also seeks to bar any purging of eligible voters between now and Election Day.
Coffman’s purges came under national scrutiny after a New York Times report revealed that his office may have improperly removed 37,000 people from the rolls in the three weeks leading up to the Aug. 12 primary election. Coffman disputed the article, saying that 14,049 had been purged, though he thought some of them may have been taken off after the deadline. But Attorney General John Suthers’ office later affirmed Coffman in his removals, saying that purging duplicate registrations is permissible within the 90-day period.
The voting rights groups aren’t buying it.
“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 of the Advancement Project in a press release. “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.”