Afternoon Headlines June 30, 2017

A new task force created by President Donald Trump to investigate voter fraud has asked Colorado’s secretary of state to turn over personal information about the state’s voters, including addresses, party affiliation and voting history, according to a letter obtained by The Colorado Independent.

The June 28 letter was signed by Kris Kobach, the Republican secretary of state in Kansas who Trump tapped to help chair a panel called the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. “Please be aware that any documents that are submitted to the full Commission will also be made available to the public,” the letter reads. While some states run by Democratic elections officials have said they won’t comply, Colorado’s Republican secretary of state, Wayne Williams, says he will. “All they have asked for is public information and that’s what we’ll provide them,” Williams told The Colorado Independent, which broke the news Thursday.

The Republican-led effort to investigate voter fraud, which is rare in the United States and in Colorado, comes with an ironic twist. The Kobach letter asks Williams to explain any evidence of fraud in Colorado. Williams says he plans to mention a case from March in which Colorado’s former Republican Party chairman, Steven Curtis, was charged with forging his wife’s ballot.

National election law expert Rick Hasen raised privacy concerns about the national voter-file dragnet on his blog this week.“Will it be used by the Trump campaign and other political officials for political purposes? How secure will this be?” he asked. He also wrote this, which is worth repeating: “If a commission headed by the most left-wing secretary of state in the U.S. and directed by President Obama had requested this voter information from every state, it is easy to see what the reaction would be.”

Police arrested 10 disability rights activists, many in wheelchairs, on Thursday after a 58-hour sit-in protest in the lobby of Republican U.S. Senator Cory Gardner’s Denver office. The protest, which began Tuesday morning, was organized by a national advocacy group called ADAPT with the aim of to imploring Colorado’s junior senator to vote against a federal Republican proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Demonstrators say the proposal’s cuts to Medicaid would force them into nursing homes— or worse. Protesters live-streamed their sit-in – and their arrests – on Facebook. “Rather go to jail than die without Medicaid,” they chanted as officers began the arrests. Gardner is one of 13 Republican senators who helped craft the bill. Nine of the 10 arrested remained in custody overnight. Attorney and longtime disability rights activist Carrie Ann Lucas was arrested but never booked, because of her health. Lucas relies on a ventilator, so police released her with a court summons. “We’re really fighting for our liberty here — and for life,” Lucas told The Colorado Independent early Friday morning.

Colorado voters will get a bit of a respite this year, now that there isn’t anyone or any group planning to run a ballot measure on transportation for the fall election. But don’t get too comfortable: those who were thinking about asking for voter approval to start fixing the state’s $9 billion backlog of transportation projects vow they will be back in 2018. Two groups had proposed a slew of initiatives to solve what Colorado’s General Assembly could not in 2017. Those include finding at least some of the dollars to whittle away at the list of road and bridge repairs sought by the state Department of Transportation.

The Colorado Contractors’ Association, which had looked at a solution similar to a sales tax increase proposed by legislative leaders, dropped out earlier this month. Association executive director Tony Milo said that the problem wouldn’t solve itself and that the association’s goal remains the same: “to establish a long-term, sustainable funding source that will address our transportation needs at the state and local level.” The Association’s coalition still plans to pursue a ballot measure in 2018, according to Milo’s June 7 statement.

With the contractors and their coalition out of the ballot race for 2017, that left the libertarian-leaning Independence Institute as the last player standing. This week, Institute Executive Director Jon Caldara said, they, too, will not pursue a ballot measure this fall. The Institute’s proposal, known as “Fix Our Damn Roads,” would direct the General Assembly to find money for the transportation projects out of the existing state budget.

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