For Immediate Release
Tim Bradley, Brennan Center for Justice, 646-452-5637 or 314-440-9936
Sabrina Williams Advancement Project, 202-728-9557 or 305-904-3960
Jenny Flanagan, Colorado Common Cause, 303-292-2163 or 303-842-1515
Purged Colorado Voters Win Unprecedented Protections to Ensure Votes Are Counted
DENVER - An agreement reached late yesterday before a federal judge in
Colorado ensures that tens of thousands of Colorado voters illegally
purged from the registration lists will have their votes counted. The
decision was hailed by voting rights and good-government groups in
Colorado and nationwide as a victory for voters and a clear message to
election officials must take the necessary steps to make sure that
ballots cast by eligible voters must be counted.
"This is a major victory for voters. All eligible Colorado voters
who followed the rules should have confidence that on November 4th they
will be able to vote and their vote will be counted," said Ben
Monterroso, national director of Mi Familia Vota.
Under the settlement between plaintiffs-Mi Familia Vota, Colorado
Common Cause and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU)-and
the defendant, the Colorado Secretary of State, every wrongfully purged
Colorado voter in question will be placed on a protection list that
assumes their eligibility and guarantees that in the event they are
given a provisional ballot on Election Day, county election officials
will promptly verify their eligibility.
Any ballots of the purged voters contested at the county
level-rather than be discarded and not counted as often happens with
provisional ballots-will have to be reviewed by the Colorado Secretary
of State as well as advocates for the purged voters in order to make
sure all eligible votes are counted. If the Secretary elects to reject
the ballot, representatives of the plaintiffs will also have the
opportunity to review the registration and contest any rejections of
wrongfully purged voters. Additionally, the court will retain
continuing jurisdiction over the tens of thousands of voters wrongfully
purged-which allows plaintiffs to go directly to the judge to swiftly
resolve any disputes and guarantee votes are properly counted.
This stipulation means that the purged Colorado voters in question
will get at least three layers of protections-by the county, state,
plaintiffs' representatives and, if needed, a federal judge-an
unprecedented degree of oversight to ensure that all eligible votes are
"This settlement provides unprecedented protections to the voters of
Colorado and ensures that the ballots of voters who were erroneously
purged will be accurately counted," said Penda Hair of the Advancement
"This is a real victory for all of us and particularly the
wrongfully purged voters in Colorado. Most of these voters had no idea
they'd been barred from the voting booth. Today, we all have assurance
that their votes will count. It is a sweet and just victory," said Jim
Johnson, Chair of the Board of the Brennan Center for Justice and
partner at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP.
"This is a good outcome for Colorado voters and we are please that
the Secretary of State worked with us to achieve this resolution. Going
forward, the state must work to do better for its voters," said Myrna
Perez, Counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice.
Plaintiffs also noted on Thursday that the extraordinary relief
granted to Colorado voters just six days before the election is only a
first step to improving Colorado's purge practices. After the election,
plaintiffs will continue to work to change Colorado's procedures to
improve protections for all voters.
To read the stipulation agreed to before Judge U.S. District Judge John Kane, click here.
To arrange an interview with one of the experts involved in issuing
the complaint, please contact any of the individuals listed above.
BACKGROUND ON THE CASE
The complaint was filed on behalf of Colorado Common Cause, Mi
Familia Vota, and Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
contending that, in an action not required by any Colorado law, the
Secretary of State has removed tens of thousands of voters from the
official voter rolls. The move was a violation of the NVRA, which bans
systematic removal of voters from the rolls within 90 days of a federal
election except for narrowly specified reasons. Civic groups brought
substantial evidence that during the NVRA's 90 day no-purge period,
defendant Secretary of State actually removed approximately 30,000
voters' registration records from Colorado's voting rolls, in addition
to the 1,892 whose removal may have been permitted under the NVRA
because of death, incarceration for a felony, or withdrawal.
Several thousand eligible voters have also been removed from the
voter registration list due to a Colorado law that requires
cancellation of new registrations when a non-forwardable notice sent by
mail to the voter is returned as undeliverable within 20 days of
receipt of the registration application. A similar law in Michigan was
recently found by the US District Court to violate the NVRA and
The plaintiffs were represented by the Advancement Project; Brennan
Center for Justice; Debevoise & Plimpton, LLC; Altshuler Berzon,
LLP; Fair Elections Legal Network; and
Richardson Rosenblatt & Associates, LLC.
All of the parties to the complaint urge voters to "know before they
go" to the polls and to vote early if possible to ensure that any
problems are flagged early and to reduce pressure on polling places on
Election Day. Voters can check their registration, find out where to
vote, or report a problem by going to www.JustVoteColorado.com or by