By Brian Maass
LOVELAND, Colo. (CBS4) – An ongoing CBS4 Investigation into dead voters in Colorado has turned up another dead voter — this time in Larimer County.
“I don’t think it was an accident,” said Larimer County Clerk and Recorder Angela Myers, who acknowledged she found the most recent dead voter after the initial CBS4 Investigation entitled “Dying To Vote,” which aired last month. That initial investigation found a handful of votes cast in the names of dead Coloradans months, and sometimes years, after they died.
Myers said following that report, the Secretary of State sent her a list of deceased voters to double check.
“We did find a single deceased voter,” she said, “and unfortunately it was counted.”
That apparently fraudulent vote was cast in the name of Irvin Mniszewski, 88, of Loveland, who died Sept. 6, 2011. But six weeks later, on Oct. 16, 2011, a vote was cast in Mniszewski’s name in a Larimer County election and it was counted on Oct. 19, 2011.
“You think someone tried to forge his signature and get an extra vote?” Myers was asked. “Potentially, absolutely someone voted for him and he was gone,” responded Myers, who is a Republican. CBS4 examined Mniszewski’s signature as well as the signature on the apparently forged ballot. Both signatures appeared similar.
“I’m very surprised,” said Myers, “very unhappy about it.”
She said the case has been forwarded on to the local district attorney for potential criminal prosecution.
She said the dead man’s vote slipped past both Democrat and Republican election judges who examined the signatures and felt they matched. Although Myers said she was unhappy about it, she emphasized that such cases are rare. She said with about 230,000 voters registered in Larimer County, it’s inevitable there will be some fraudulent votes.
“I would be naïve not to think there is a ne’er-do-well in that number,” said the clerk and recorder.
To the south, in Douglas and Arapahoe Counties, CBS4 found seven cases of voter fraud that were prosecuted between 2009 and 2015 that led to either guilty pleas or findings of guilt at trial. All were misdemeanor cases.
“We’ve had cases — we catch ’em and send them to the DA,” said Douglas County Clerk and Recorder Merlin Klotz. But Klotz emphasized that the number of dead voters and fraud cases is small compared to the number of votes cast.
“To me that’s a success story and reinforces my faith in Colorado’s system,” said Klotz.
With nearly 4 million voters in Colorado, and a relatively small number of votes cast in the name of the deceased, Klotz said “I was amazed it wasn’t in the hundreds. I was just amazed the number wasn’t larger. I think our system is tight.”
However, to the north in Boulder County, Mike Simmons wonders how tight the system really is. His mother, Daisy Simmons, died in 2010.
Simmons said her death is on file with the State of Colorado and federal authorities. However, he said every year since his mother’s death, ballots have continued to arrive at her Boulder County home.
“If it shows up in the mailbox theres a temptation to open it, fill it out and see what happens. I believe I could have scrawled her signature and it would not have been challenged.”
Simmons said he never did, but says his mother’s case “really shows me we have a vulnerability in this mail only ballot system we have in the state.”
He said he disposed of most of the ballots but kept one unopened ballot from 2015 which he opened in the presence of CBS4.
“So this was mailed out October 2015, five years and seven months after she passed away,” said Simmons, as he opened the ballot in his kitchen. “I’m not convinced my mom’s case is a singular event. I think it happens quite a bit.”
Lynn Bartels, spokeswoman for Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, said in 2014, 153,518 ballots, or roughly 5 percent of all ballots mailed out, were returned as undeliverable.
Merlin Klotz acknowledged such cases are a problem, but he said, “I believe there is an ethical responsibility, if you receive someone else’s ballot that you return it and mark it deceased.”