DENVER – Democrats make up more than half of the 155 suspected noncitizen voters that Secretary of State Scott Gessler is referring to prosecutors, according to figures released by his office Friday.
The party affiliation breakdown shows that 88 of the voters are Democrats, 49 are unaffiliated and 13 are Republicans. Five others are from minor parties, according to numbers provided by Gessler’s office to The Associated Press.
No charges have been filed yet against the voters, which Gessler said Monday are being referred to prosecutors. It’s the latest chapter in a heated debate that Gessler, a Republican, has helped drive since taking office in 2011, repeatedly saying noncitizens on voter rolls are vulnerability in the system. He said this week that officials “can no longer turn a blind eye” to it.
But Democrats and voting-rights groups have questioned Gessler’s findings and have argued that the data does not back up his claims.
“I think that he has chased this boogeyman for so long, he can’t let go of it,” said Ellen Dumm, a communications consultant for voter-rights groups.
The voters sent to prosecutors are among 4,201 people who have received letters from Gessler since last August, asking them to affirm their citizenship or voluntarily remove themselves from the voting rolls. More than 500 have responded affirming their citizenship, and at least 1,000 had moved with no forwarding address.
The 155 voters under scrutiny did not respond to the letters, and have voted in one or more elections, Gessler’s office said.
Like the latest party-affiliation breakdown, most who have received letters are Democrats or unaffiliated voters. According to a breakdown from August, when the letter tally was at 3,903, registered Democrats received 1,566 letters and 1,794 went to unaffiliated voters. Another 486 letters were sent to registered Republicans, and the remaining voters who were questioned belonged to minor parties.
Gessler’s office has said it doesn’t use party registration as an identifier when searching for suspected noncitizen voters.
“Any implication of a partisan motive is reckless and factually incorrect,” said Rich Coolidge, a Gessler spokesman.
The letters have been sent to people who once showed proof of noncitizenship, such as a green card, when getting a driver’s license and then later appeared on voter rolls. Gessler is also using a federal immigration database, which has historically been used to track who is a legal resident eligible to receive government benefits. Critics have argued it’s not error-free and doesn’t immediately update when someone becomes naturalized.
Denver District Attorney spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough said that as of mid-week, her office had not received any names from Gessler. She said once they get the names, they’ll review and determine, “based on the evidence submitted, whether sufficient credible evidence is present to pursue the case for criminal investigation.”
Coolidge said prosecutors are expected to get referral packets Friday and today.