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Tangled Web (site) not meant to deceive

Kerry’s Colorado campaign accuses Secretary of State of disenfranchising Spanish-speaking voters

By Leigh E. Rich

A problem with a link on the Secretary of State’s Web site elicited a seemingly accusatory response from the Colorado arm of the John Kerry for President campaign this week.

On Wednesday afternoon, Steve Haro, the Colorado communications director for the Kerry-Edwards campaign, sent an e-mail to “a targeted list of folks,” including several in the media, apprising them of a link that mistakenly directed Spanish-speaking visitors to an absentee ballot request form rather than the promised voter registration request form.

Written in Spanish, the link labeled “Formulario de solicitud de inscripci de votante”—loosely translated as “form to request voter registration”—is located in the “Elections Center” section of the Web site under “New Programs and Voter Registration.”

Realizing that electors must first be registered to vote before applying for an absentee ballot, Haro asked in his e-mail whether this was an “honest mistake” or “an attempt to confuse Spanish speaking voters in an effort to depress Latino turnout.”

Haro says he discovered the problem with the link after a volunteer in his office brought it to his attention.

“My major concern was how long has this mistake been in existence,” Haro said in an interview, reiterating the thrust of his e-mail message about whether this has “already had a dramatic effect on Latino registration.”

Lisa Doran, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Donetta Davidson, confirmed that this was an innocent mistake and said that the error “was fixed immediately upon being brought to our attention.”

The correct form was coupled with the link on Wednesday afternoon.

“In an effort to get as much information to our bilingual customers,” Doran added, “we had six different links to six different areas of our Web site to this document, and one link was incorrect.”

Doran also said that when county clerks receive absentee request forms from citizens who are not already registered to vote, “they contact the potential voter anyway.”

Regardless, the Secretary of State’s office contacted all of Colorado’s county clerks on Thursday to apprise them of the mistaken situation.

“We did alert our county clerks that one of the links is in error. … We went ahead and made the extra step yesterday,” Doran said.

Doran and the secretary’s office did not comment on Haro’s statement.

That statement, however, “was very intentional,” Haro said, in order to ensure the error was given the seriousness that it merited.

Haro did say that, when he issued the e-mail, he believed the error to be an honest oversight and not a deliberate interference with Spanish-speaking citizens’ capacity to register to vote.

But “having lived through Florida” and the 2000 presidential election, Haro said that “it was a little bit disconcerting to me at first. I’m glad they have corrected it.”

“We’re all human. Mistakes are made,” Doran emphasized. “And the important thing is that the mistake is repaired and that people are not disenfranchised. … Fortunately, it’s not two days from the election.”

Rich, L. E. (2004, September 10). Tangled web (site) not meant to deceive: Kerry’s Colorado campaign accuses Secretary of State of disenfranchising Spanish-speaking voters. The Colorado Statesman, pp. 6, 11.

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