A conservative Colorado political organization sent photoshopped mailers warning that "felons, illegal aliens" and the dead could vote under a voting expansion bill backed by two Republican county clerks.
The fliers, sent by the Citizens for Free and Fair Elections to residents of two Colorado counties, attacks Republican county clerks Sheila Reiner of Mesa County and Tiffany Lee Parker of La Plata County for supporting a voter expansion bill. The mailer links the county clerks to President Barack Obama and "Democrats," according to Colorado Pols. Citizens for Free and Fair Elections' address is the same as the former law firm of Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler.
"If HB 1303 passes," the flier warns, "we would have no way to verify a voter's identity -- no way of knowing if a voter is even eligible or has voted in another state! Felons, illegal aliens -- even the deceased -- could cast ballots!"
The voter turnout bill is designed to make voting in Colorado more accessible. Sending mail ballots to all Coloradans, transitioning to an electronic system to track registration and ballots in real time, same-day voter registration and changing residency requirements are among the prominent features.
While the new measure was written by Democrats, it has the backing of the majority of Colorado county clerks, most of them Republicans.
The fliers came at a shock to Parker and Reiner. Reiner told the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel that the flier's claims are false and that the bill doesn't change how voters are identified. "The voter registration system (under the bill) is the same system that we have in place today," she said. "If they feel like that’s a hole (in the bill), well, that’s already a hole today."
In a strange twist, the photo of people waiting in line to vote used in the flier appears to have been photoshopped to remove an African-American man and woman, as noted Colorado Pols. The face of a white woman standing next to the African-American woman in the original picture, replaces that of the African-American woman, whereas the African-American male is removed completely from the picture.
In its defense, Bill Ray, the executive director of Citizens for Free and Fair Elections, told the Durango Herald that the organization "neither approved nor asked for any Photoshopping to be done to the photo." He blamed the editing on Wizbang Solutions, which printed the fliers for the organization.
Citizens for Free and Fair Elections lists its return address as the same as the Hackstaff Law Group, the firm where Gessler, a fervent opponent of the bill, worked. A spokesman for Gessler, Andrew Cole, told The Huffington Post in an email that "insinuating an association (between the mailer and Gessler) because Sec. Gessler worked at the Hackstaff law firm over two years ago is reckless and unfair." Gessler "had nothing to do with the flier," Cole said.
Mario Nicolais, a lawyer with the Hackstaff Law Group, told The Huffington Post that neither his office nor Gessler had anything to do with the creation of the mailer. He said the law firm was involved in incorporating the Citizens for Free and Fair Elections, hence the mirrored address. Ray said Gessler was "absolutely not" involved with the mailer, according to the Durango Herald.
Still Gessler was blasted by Progress Now, a liberal organization in Colorado. "How can anyone say with confidence that Gessler was not directly involved in these attack mailings against fellow Republican clerks originating from his former law office, when Gessler is the foremost opponent of the bill in question?" Alan Franklin, the Progress Now political director, said on Fox31 Denver.
Parker, who is scheduled to testify in the state Senate in favor of the bill on Wednesday, said the flier appears to be backfiring -- building support for the bill. "I've just been getting inundated with phone calls and emails from people supporting and thanking me," she said.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that Colorado already has same-day registration. It does not currently.