Colorado accidentally sent voter registration notices to 30,000 residents who are not citizens

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Colorado Secretary of State's Office
An example of the postcards the state sends to Colorado residents it believes are eligible to vote but not yet registered. Recently, the Secretary of State’s Office mailed the notices to roughly 30,000 non-citizens living in the state notifying them on how they could register to vote.

The Colorado Secretary of State’s Office mailed postcards to roughly 30,000 non-citizens living in the state notifying them on how they could register to vote. The office said it is currently trying to determine what led to the error.

The state emphasizes that if anyone who isn’t a U.S. citizen tries to register to vote, Colorado’s online voter registration system will prevent their application from going through.

The postcards were mailed to residents last week who had non-citizen Colorado driver's licenses. The state sends postcards every two years to Coloradans it believes are eligible to vote but not yet registered. In big letters on the front it read, “Make sure your voice is heard this November.” It then directs people to “Register to VOTE today at”

“The Department has become aware that approximately 30,000 EBU [Eligible But Unregistered] postcard mailers were incorrectly sent to ineligible Coloradans,” said a spokesperson for the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office. “The office is undertaking an internal review of the incident and will take any corrective action that is warranted.”

The office said the problem occurred when the state compared a list of potential unregistered voters from a multi-state group Colorado belongs to, with local DMV records. The DMV data included people who hold non-citizen driver’s licenses — which were created to allow people without legal residency to drive legally — but a formatting error caused the system not to flag them as ineligible.

The postcards, which were printed in English and Spanish and read in part, “A message from Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold” inform the recipient “Our records indicate that you or your household may be eligible to vote, but do not appear to be registered at your current address.”

The mailing does list the state’s voter eligibility requirements, which include that someone must be 18 years old by Election Day, a United States citizen, and a Colorado resident for at least 22 days before the upcoming election. 

Griswold, a Democrat, was elected in 2018 after defeating Republican incumbent, Wayne Williams. She’s seeking a second term in office and running against Republican Pam Anderson, the former Jefferson county clerk.

Griswold’s office said it is in the process of sending out another notice to ineligible individuals who got the original mailer, “and reminding them that only those that meet the above requirements are eligible to register.”

The state said it will take additional steps to make sure none of the non-citizens register to vote. 

“The Department will also compare the list of approximately 30,000 individuals who incorrectly received the EBU mailer postcard to the statewide voter list on a daily basis to ensure none of those individuals register. County clerks refer illegal registrations to their local district attorney for review,” said the spokesperson.  

Colorado is required to send out postcards to eligible but non-registered voters as part of its membership in the multistate organization the Electronic Registration Information Center, known as ERIC. 

Two years ago, the same type of mailing also brought controversy, after it was alleged some postcards went to people who had died or were not citizens.

Colorado was a founding member of ERIC in 2012 under former Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler. The organization regularly reviews member states’ voter rolls to identify people who may have moved or died. Its goal is to “improve the accuracy of America’s voter rolls and increase access to voter registration for all eligible citizens.” 

Thirty-one states are members. The group has come under fire from some conservatives who have made baseless claims that the organization’s goal is to register Democratic voters

Election leaders in the states that belong to ERIC are fairly evenly split between Republicans and Democrats and deny those claims.  

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include information about similar mailers before the 2020 election.