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Ellen Dumm Headshot

Our Secretary of State as a Punch Line

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Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler has become a punch line. I witnessed this recently in a local restaurant.

I heard "Scott Gessler" across the room, followed by peals of laughter. No joke.

I follow the secretary of state closely because of his self-described attempts to "further the conservative agenda" and voter suppression efforts that match those of the national Republican Party.

That makes me a voter nerd. I am conversant in many of the finer points of voter registration, early voting, mail ballot issues, etc. One person, one vote sounds so simple - but it's a complex system that can be manipulated with subtle changes. Once you are a card-carrying member of the voter nerd club, you recognize other members quickly. We don't have a secret handshake, but it's not a particularly large membership, as you can well imagine.

So when I heard laughter following our secretary of state's name across a restaurant, I expected to see some familiar faces. But none of those grinning people were the usual suspects. Not a single person at that table was recognizable from legislative, court or administrative hearings that have dulled many senses over the year since Gessler took office. Not one was involved in the many meetings about voter protection. But they were clearly amused by the secretary of state.

In his one year in office, Gessler has embarrassed our state by:

• Attempting to "moonlight" at his former (highly partisan Republican elections) law firm.
• Ordering clerks not to send mail ballots to eligible voters including military overseas personnel.
• Fining the Larimer County Republican Party for campaign finance law violations and then fundraising to help them cover the amount.
• Rewriting campaign finance law without legal authority.
Endorsing and fundraising for Mitt Romney early in the presidential campaign (an election he will oversee as secretary of state).
• Telling Republicans that "we helped stop the Obama train."

Those are just the highlights -- there are more antics that I won't list here.

Colorado is a key swing state in a presidential election that has a hyper-partisan secretary of state who has become a joke. The two make a difficult combination (see Florida and Katherine Harris 2002).

Gessler has flaunted any authority other than his own, proudly proclaimed his partisanship and continually pushed the boundaries to tip election rules to his ideological favor.

If Colorado courts, media, lawmakers and public do not rein in Gessler soon, then the joke may be on us.