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Gessler Plans Colorado Voter Registration Initiative

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Scott Gessler (credit: CBS)

Scott Gessler (credit: CBS)

DENVER (AP/CBS4) – Nearly a million Colorado residents are getting mailers encouraging them to register to vote in what Secretary of State Scott Gessler said Tuesday is “the largest voter registration effort” in state history.

Gessler said the mailers will reach about 961,000 people who are likely eligible to vote but aren’t registered. Statewide outreach efforts also include television, radio, and print advertising in English and Spanish encouraging people to register and educating them on how to do it. Gessler’s office said the scale of the initiative is unprecedented in the state.

The Republican elections chief has long had an uneasy relationship with Democrats, who accuse him of using his position for partisan gain, including a plan to check the citizenship of some registered voters. Both major parties are playing close attention to Colorado, where the presidential race is expected to be close.

Gessler said the voter registration effort shows his office “has a very strong commitment” to ensuring people’s right to vote. He said the mailers and the ad campaigns have been in the works for several months and that they’re “not a response to anything that’s happened recently.”

“On the other hand, I think it does disprove some of these accusations that unfortunately, I think, have taken on real partisan tones,” he said.

The advertisements will begin airing Wednesday until Oct. 9, and some of the mailers went out last week. The ads are paid for with $850,000 in federal funds and the mailers with about $216,000 from fees that have been paid to Gessler’s office.

Gessler said the outreach is designed so there’s equal coverage for everyone in the state.

The voter registration effort is unlikely to quell the tension and criticism surrounding Gessler’s plan to challenge and potentially cancel the registration of voters believed to be non-citizens.

During the announcement for voter outreach, Gessler said his office plans to move forward with a rule to hold hearings for registered voters whose citizenship is in doubt. He said more details would be available in the coming days.

It’s still unknown how many people the rule would impact, but Gessler’s office said there are likely less than 200 registered voters whose citizenship status has not been verified.

Last week, Gessler’s office said 16 out of 3,903 people they mailed letters to questioning their citizenship responded by voluntarily withdrawing their registration. Hundreds who received the letters are U.S. citizens, and 482 responded by affirming their status. Others had moved or did not respond to the letters.

Gessler sent the letters to people who once showed proof of non-citizenship, such as a green card, when getting a driver’s license and later registered to vote. However, many of those people are citizens now and the search has yet to yield evidence of a case where an illegally registered voter cast a ballot, Democrats question Gessler’s political motives.

Gessler maintains that his goal is to ensure voter rolls are accurate and that only eligible voters cast ballots.

Below is the official news release:

Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler today launched the largest voter registration initiative in the state’s history. The outreach campaign—which includes television, radio, print and online ads—features Coloradans from around the state. The ads educate Coloradans on the need to register to vote, the eligibility requirements, and where they can register—online at www.govotecolorado.com.

“As the state’s chief election officer, my job is to make registering and voting easy, while protecting our elections,” Gessler said. “Recently, we heard that one in eight registrations is inaccurate, which causes confusion for the voter and reduced confidence in our elections. Our outreach will help educate and give Coloradans the tools they need to improve the accuracy of our voter rolls.”

The outreach initiative will kick off on September 5 and conclude October 9—the registration deadline. Gessler is funding the $850,000 initiative with federal funds expressly designated for voter educational efforts.

“Though these funds have been used in the past, I wanted a bold initiative that resonates a positive message with voters and can still compete with all of the other ads,” Gessler said.

Below are links to the television spots from the ad.

Extended cut: https://vimeo.com/48816004
TV version 1: https://vimeo.com/48816006
TV version 2: https://vimeo.com/48816005
TV Spanish: https://vimeo.com/48816848

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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