Conspiracy theories are odd things. They typically involve byzantine logic, wild leaps of faith and holding discussions with people who have some type of extreme agenda. A large dose of skepticism is called for around conspiracy theories.
So when our new Secretary of State Scott Gessler cooked up some numbers alleging that thousands of non-citizens are voting in Colorado, a number of red flags went up. His numbers are not so much fuzzy as they are sporting a mustache, sideburns and a goatee.
Depending on the day or hour, his numbers shift a bit, but his basic conclusion is that 5,000 non-citizens voted in 2010. These 5,000 people were in the U.S. legally and presented non-citizen documentation to get a Colorado drivers license between 2006-2010. In that same time frame (2006-2009), more than 32,000 people became citizens in Colorado. Throw in a few thousand more in 2010 (exact numbers are not available from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security yet).
Gessler's agenda has taken some hits. He took his numbers to Congress recently and was skewered by Rep. Charles Gonzalez (D-TX), who said Gessler's case was weak and inconclusive. Mesa County Clerk Sheila Reiner is demanding that Gessler turn over any information because she's not buying his theory. County clerks have testified that non-citizens voting in Colorado is a non-issue.
Gessler is asking Colorado lawmakers to pass a law giving him broad powers to freeze the voting rights of anyone whose citizenship -- in his opinion - is questionable... until the accused can prove otherwise. Coincidentally, many of these voters tend to cast their ballots for Democrats.
Colorado is not the only state with this proposed legislation. The conservative ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) is pushing similar laws in advance of the 2012 presidential election in swing states. Gessler is just one of the most aggressive secretaries of state carrying their water.
Former Secretary of State Bernie Buescher last year decided to have his staff re-check a random sample of people who did not mark the citizen box when registering to vote. The results? 100% of the people they contacted were citizens.
Speaking of former secretaries of state and conspiracy theories, Mike Coffman in 2007 gleefully conspired with Tom Tancredo's congressional office, the El Paso County District Attorney, the El Paso County Clerk and his staff (all Republicans) about trying to chase down any illegal non-citizens voting here in Colorado. He never found any.
No one is arguing that non-citizens should vote. We should argue about protecting eligible voters' right to cast their ballot. Especially from an elected official who used to represent right-wing partisan political committees and admits that he's in office to "further the conservative viewpoint."
Marry Gessler's line of thinking to another conspiracy theory currently in vogue among Republicans: President Obama's birth certificate is a fake! Color me more skeptical about Gessler's intentions and giving him the power to purge voters from the roles. Whose birth certificate is real to the Secretary of State's office?
Gessler likely has at least some power to double-check citizenship without legislation. So, stay skeptical and keep a close eye on this fox in the henhouse.