Colorado to tackle voter-fraud fears

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DENVER — Colorado lawmakers yesterday sought to ease concerns about the integrity of the state election process, despite growing accusations of fraud amid an overwhelming flood of new voter registrations.

Republican Gov. Bill Owens said yesterday, “I am extremely concerned about the widespread allegations of serious and sustained criminal activity surrounding voter registration in Colorado.”

Earlier yesterday, he told local television station KUSA-TV, the local NBC affiliate, “Clearly, there were some people trying to cheat the system.”

Colorado’s status as a battleground state in the tight presidential race has turned the state into a magnet for voter-registration efforts, pushing the number of new registrations to more than 100,000 in this state of 4.3 million.

With the voter drives has come a surge in fraud accusations. Some registration drives pay their workers $2 per application, which gives them a financial incentive to cheat by forging signatures or registering the same voter multiple times.

In one blatant example, Gerald Obi told KUSA that he had registered to vote “about 35 times” after coming under pressure from registration gatherers.

In another case, the same signature was affixed to 10 applications.

Secretary of State Donetta Davidson, who has come under fire in the past week over reports of fraud, took a swing at Attorney General Ken Salazar, saying his office had failed to keep her posted on its investigations.

Mrs. Davidson said she turned in several hundred cases of fraud accusations to his office in April, but had heard nothing since then.

“I have been kept out of the loop, but I have been the one held responsible,” said Mrs. Davidson at a press conference yesterday.

Ken Lane, spokesman for Mr. Salazar, said the attorney general’s office had been investigating the cases, but that “these investigations take time.”

The office has filed charges against one voter-registration worker, accusing him of forging about 50 applications.

Mr. Owens yesterday called on Mr. Salazar and others “to place the highest priority on attacking potential voter fraud.”

“With new allegations arising on virtually a daily basis, it is essential that all parties involved — and particularly the attorney general and district attorneys — act decisively and rapidly to root out fraud and prosecute it to the fullest extent of the law,” the governor said.

The role of politics in the registration surge also has become a topic of speculation. Mr. Owens and Mrs. Davidson are both Republicans, while Mr. Salazar, a Democrat, is running in a tight race for the U.S. Senate against Republican Pete Coors.

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