DENVER (AP) – Colorado Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler defended his search for noncitizens on voter rolls Monday, telling lawmakers that the state’s voting system remains vulnerable to fraud.
The state’s election chief said his office spent about $8,000 to mail letters to 3,903 suspected noncitizens on voter rolls last year in the months leading up to the November election. It’s the first time he’s publicly offered a price tag for how much it cost to print and mail the letters.
Gessler told lawmakers it was a worthwhile endeavor.
“Our system remains vulnerable to noncitizens registering to vote,” he said.
Democrats remain doubtful the search was effective and note the cost doesn’t include staff time. Gessler said it was difficult to calculate exact times that staff spent on the search because it would mean separating that work from duties they would’ve been doing anyway.
Democratic Sen. Evie Hudak said there was a “giant disparity” between letters sent to people suspected of not being citizens, and the number of people who turned out to be illegally registered to vote.
Gessler’s office has said federal records show that about 441 people who received letters are not citizens and are registered to vote. But Gessler critics question the accuracy of the federal database Gessler’s office has been using.
He was speaking to lawmakers Monday for an annual briefing about his department. Democrats took the opportunity to question him about his search for noncitizens on voter rolls and other efforts to maintain the state voter rolls.
Gessler said he will be supporting two bills that address the issue of noncitizens registered to vote. One would offer training for voter registration drives, and another would outline a process for removing suspected noncitizens from voting lists.
With Democrats controlling both chambers of the Colorado Legislature, it’s unlikely either bill will pass.
“We should encourage people to participate in our democracy and that’s where we should spend our time,” Democratic Sen. Matt Jones said.
Gessler countered by saying that his office spent about $1.1 million on a statewide voter registration drive, compared to the money spent on trying to find noncitizens.
One of the Republicans on the committee Gessler spoke to thanked him for his efforts to find fraud.
“We don’t want to have any of our elections swayed by people who should not be voting and we don’t want to have any vote diluted by somebody’s vote that should not be voting,” said Republican Sen. Ted Harvey.
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