Election

Colorado gets immigration data to verify voter status

The federal database contains information about immigrants who are in the country legally and eligible to receive government benefits, but are not citizens

DENVER | Colorado has finalized an agreement with federal officials to access an immigration database to verify whether non-citizens are on voting rolls, Secretary of State Scott Gessler said Friday.

The Colorado secretary of state’s office has finalized an agreement with the Department of Homeland Security to use a federal database to determine if there are noncitizens on the state’s voter rolls.

The federal database contains information about immigrants who are in the country legally and eligible to receive government benefits, but are not citizens.

The agreement, which was expected, comes a week after Gessler sent letters to nearly 4,000 registered voters last week who he suspects are ineligible to vote because they once showed non-citizen documents, like a green card, when applying for a driver’s license. They later appeared on voter rolls, Gessler has said.

The letters ask people to either voluntarily withdraw their registration or verify their status.

Gessler said the database will help verify whether those immigrants have since become citizens.

“My office is focused on protecting Colorado elections and we’ll continue to work with these individuals to preserve their voter registration or help them withdraw if they’re wrongly listed on the rolls,” Gessler said in a statement.

Florida already has access to the federal database.

Critics of Gessler’s plan worry it could disenfranchise eligible voters.

Like Florida’s agreement, Colorado officials must use an alien registration number, as opposed to using only person’s last name, to run a citizenship check through database.

Gessler spokesman Rich Coolidge said election officials will use the database to go through the nearly 4,000 names that received letters to verify their status.

Gessler’s office said there will be hearings for people who don’t respond to letters before officials take any action on their registration. Gessler plans a public meeting Wednesday to discuss the process.

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