Deal restores 30,000 voters in Colorado
Tens of thousands of Coloradans who had been removed from the state's voter rolls will be allowed to vote in next week's election and given extra protections so their ballots are counted, under an agreement reached late Wednesday in federal court.
The New York Times
DENVER — Tens of thousands of Coloradans who had been removed from the state's voter rolls will be allowed to vote in next week's election and given extra protections so their ballots are counted, under an agreement reached late Wednesday in federal court.
Nearly 30,000 names had been removed by Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman, a Republican who said he did so because the voters had moved out of state or were listed more than once on the rolls. But Coffman was sued by a coalition of voting-rights and other groups that said such purges generally were prohibited by federal law within 90 days of an election.
Under the agreement, voters removed from the rolls will be permitted to cast provisional ballots and those ballots will be counted unless election officials can prove the voters were not eligible.
To strike such ballots, county election officials must conduct an extensive records review on each one, a decision that must then be reviewed by Coffman's office.
"This is unprecedented," said Elizabeth Westfall, a lawyer for the Advancement Project, a civil-rights group that helped file the lawsuit. "We are really thrilled that there will be this degree of unprecedented scrutiny and protection for these purged voters when they cast their provisional ballots."
Coffman said Thursday that he believed that Colorado's election practices adhered to federal law and that "our goal has always been to have a system in place where every voter, who has the legal right to cast a ballot, is allowed to do so."
Edward Foley, a law professor at The Ohio State University and an authority on voting litigation nationwide, said the settlement was noteworthy because many states had put the onus on voters to prove that their provisional ballots were legitimate before they could be counted.
The settlement shifts this responsibility to the state, Foley said, and is more in keeping with the spirit of the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002, which calls for election officials to count a provisional ballot if they can determine the voter's eligibility.
In Michigan, a federal appeals panel in Detroit delivered a similar victory Thursday for about 5,500 voters who had been dropped from the rolls. The 2-1 ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said state elections officials should not remove registered voters from the rolls, even if their voter-ID cards had been returned as undeliverable.
The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the U.S. Student Association Foundation and the Michigan branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
In Virginia, meanwhile, the NAACP said it wouldn't seek a hearing before Election Day on its federal lawsuit questioning whether Virginia is ready for potentially massive voter turnout.
An attorney for the group said Thursday there was not enough time to analyze new information the state has provided on the number of voting machines and polling places.
Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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