Colo. secretary of state asks for probe of alleged voter intimidation in small town

 

Colorado’s secretary of state’s office has asked the U.S. Attorney’s Office to investigate allegations of voter intimidation in a small town.

The office declared Wednesday that four residents of Pitkin whose votes were challenged earlier this year are eligible to vote there and requested the federal investigation under the federal Voting Rights Act.

An announcement from Secretary of State Wayne Williams on Wednesday said:

The order is a result of controversy in the tiny Gunnison County town where some residents allege that the district attorney’s office went to extraordinary lengths to try to prove they were not legitimate voters. Some say they had been told they could not vote in November.

Williams added:

My top priority as secretary of state is to ensure that every Coloradan can exercise his or her right to vote. No amount of intimidation or voter suppression will be tolerated.

Williams’ office said that Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert “recently met with Pitkin residents whose votes in earlier elections had been challenged because of residency questions regarding how many days a year they reside in Pitkin.”

The remote mountain town, which had a population of 66 as of the 2010 census, has many residents who leave during the winter.

“It’s clear that they are indeed residents and therefore entitled to vote in November’s election,” Staiert concluded.

In a letter to 7th Judicial District Attorney Dan Hotsenpiller, Staiert said people don’t have to live in their homes for any set period in order to be eligible to vote.

She said people reported having utility records subpoenaed and their homes and cars photographed to determine their residency.

Hotsenpiller denies any wrongdoing and said he welcomes “any inquiry or any assistance” from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

9News reports that Williams’ action comes “after seven people were charged following the 2016 municipal elections with lying about where they live. … Six of them pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges, and the other person was found guilty in Gunnison County Court.”

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