Over the weekend a video went viral of a voter registration worker at a Safeway grocery store in El Paso County, Colorado. The young woman in the video is attempting to register voters outside the grocery store, but first asked, “would you vote for Romney or Obama?”
Uh oh. Yeah that is a problem, but it gets worse. the unidentified woman who shot the video asks the woman performing the registration who she works for. The Young woman admits, “I’m actually trying to register voters for a particular party, because…we’re out here in support of Romney, actually.”
So now that she has come out and said that she is actually promoting Mitt Romney, the woman recording the incident asks who is paying her for the work she is doing. The young woman says, “We’re working for the county clerk’s office.”
“You’re working for the county clerk’s office?” the woman videoing asks.
“I believe so. Yes,” came the reply.
According the responses sent by the CO Secretary of State’s office, as well as, the El Paso County Clerk to The Brad Blog, the registration worker was not working for the El Paso County Clerk’s office.
According to a KOAA News 5 report, the El Paso County Republican Chairman Eli Bremer confirmed that the young lady actually worked for them but said she was confused when confronted over who she was working for. “It was her first day on the job and she panicked,” Bremer told KOAA. “She knew that she was turning in all the registrations to the County Clerk & Recorder’s office and she knew that was the appropriate thing to do, and that’s how she answered.” He also added that “You don’t have to offer a voter registration form to everybody.”
But Bremer’s responses were not completely candid, says Christy LeLait, Executive Directory of the El Paso County Democratic Party. Bremer had accused the woman who took the video and posted it on Youtube of being “a campaign operative” for Democrats, and that she was only attempting “to make political hay out of it.”
LeLait told KOAA that Bremer’s charges were “interesting.”
“I don’t know of any campaign operatives here in El Paso County and I know for certain that the woman who shot this video is not a campaign operative,” LeLait said, “she’s a volunteer with several different organizations including the El Paso Democratic Party and she’s also a precinct chair.”
LeLait says that, unlike Republicans, at least in her county, Democrats do not screen out voters, at least not in the same way, when signing up new registrants. “I know for a fact the campaign office is not going out and prescreening the people that are registering,” she says. “They will set up a table with an Obama sign but they don’t ask you who you’re voting for before you register.”
Now the question is: Is it legal?
CO’s Election Code (see section 1-2-506. Prohibitions [PDF]) says only that registration workers “shall not…(a) Seek to influence an applicant’s political preference or party registration; (b) Display any political preference or party allegiance; (c) Make any statement to an applicant or take any action, the purpose or effect of which is to discourage the applicant from registering to vote.”
Does claiming to be “taking a poll” and asking “would you vote for Romney or Obama?”, as the young lady is seen doing in the video, before offering a registration form constitute “a statement…or action…the purpose or effect of which is to discourage the applicant from registering to vote”? According to the Republican Sec. of State and El Paso County Clerk, the answer seems to be ‘no’.
Nonetheless, the matter certainly appears to walk a precarious legal and ethical line that the GOP would, to quote Bremer, almost certainly “make political hay out of,” had the situation been reversed and the video revealed either an ACORN worker or someone from the Democratic Party on video doing the very same thing.
So while things are considered perfectly legal, one has to wonder how ethical it is to, as the young woman said, “register voters for a particular party.” In all fairness, the young woman probably didn’t fully understand what she was doing. That is not an excuse for what she did. After all, I’m glad to see young people involved in politics. They just need to learn to do things correctly.
The video is below: