DENVER (AP) – Two Democratic members of Congress asked Tuesday for a federal review of a decision by Colorado’s top elections officer to challenge a Denver decision to mail early ballots to inactive voters.
The Denver Post reported that Democratic Reps. Robert A. Brady of Pennsylvania and Charles A. Gonzalez of Texas have asked the U.S. Department of Justice to review the actions of Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler.
Gessler has sued Denver for seeking to automatically mail ballots to all eligible voters for all-mail municipal elections this fall, even those who didn’t vote last year. Gessler says only active voters should automatically get ballots in the mail.
Brady and Gonzalez suggest that Gessler’s lawsuit may violate the federal Voting Rights Act, which prohibits discriminatory voting policies.
“There is a high likelihood that the barrier to voting Secretary Gessler seeks to impose … will have such a discriminatory result,” the letter stated. The congressmen mentioned disabled voters or military members deployed during the last election.
The congressmen said not automatically mailing ballots to eligible voters who didn’t vote last year “might make participation particularly hard.”
Gessler’s spokesman told the newspaper that the lawsuit against Denver was intended to ensure statewide uniformity in elections held by mail.
“Colorado law is clear that people need to be treated the same and protected from fraud. And a Colorado judge will decide the matter,” said Richard Coolidge, public information officer for Gessler’s office.
Gessler asked a Denver judge last week to issue a preliminary injunction preventing Denver Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson from mailing ballots to inactive voters. The day he filed the lawsuit Gessler, a Republican, said he wasn’t taking aim at Denver because it is a highly Democratic county.
Brady is the ranking Democratic member of the Committee on House Administration. Gonzalez is the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee on elections.
Also Tuesday, Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz send Gessler a letter stating that Pueblo will mail ballots to all military voters, both active and inactive.
Ortiz earlier said he’d wait for a court decision before deciding whether to mail ballots to all eligible voters. However, on Tuesday Ortiz sent a letter to Gessler saying he’d go ahead and mail ballots to all eligible military voters on Friday unless Gessler gives him an “express order” not to send them.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)