The Republican primary to determine who will challenge Colorado’s Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet this fall has been consumed by allegations that one candidate got onto the ballot with forged signatures.
The candidate battling the forgery accusations is Jon Keyser, an attorney and former state representative who was once seen as the front-runner in the Senate race and who has generated interest from some of the country’s wealthiest donors. He initially failed to qualify for the June 28 primary because the Colorado Secretary of State’s office couldn’t confirm the voter registration of one of his petition-collectors. Keyser's campaign later won a court order putting him on the ballot.
An investigation into Keyser’s signature-collecting by Denver7’s Marshall Zellinger suggests that at least 10 signatures that helped Keyser qualify to be on the ballot were forged. The video in Zellinger’s story is worth watching; voters who supposedly signed Keyser's petitions say they didn't sign them, and their handwriting styles are obviously different from their names on the petitions.
Keyser’s campaign needed to collect 1,500 signatures in each of the state’s congressional districts to put him on the ballot. The allegedly forged signatures all were collected by the same woman in the 1st Congressional District, where the state said Keyser submitted 1,520 signatures. If more than a few of those signatures are ruled invalid, Keyser may dip below the cutoff number.
Zellinger asked Keyser about the signatures on Thursday, following a debate between the candidates. Keyser repeatedly said he’s “on the ballot,” without denying that the signatures were forged, in an exceedingly awkward exchange.
Progress Now Colorado, an advocacy group that last week alleged some of Keyser’s petition signatures were forged, sent a letter to two district attorneys on Thursday, requesting a criminal investigation. The group also began circulating a petition calling on Keyser to withdraw from the race.
Keyser’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment from HuffPost.
For now, his primary rivals are treading cautiously.
“At this point we’re just waiting to see where this ends up,” said Jillian Likness, communications director for El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn. “Right now, it’s all new for everyone. We’re waiting to see where these allegations are at before we would say anything definite. You don’t go after someone unless you’re absolutely certain you have the right information.”
Republicans frequently argue that the possibility of voter fraud necessitates cutting back early voting, eliminating same-day registration, instituting strict voter identification laws and opposing efforts to make voting more accessible. Recently, a congressman from Wisconsin and a former senator who now leads a prominent Republican think tank said voter-identification laws help Republicans win elections, because voter fraud is so widespread that it's helping Democrats win elections.
While voter fraud is vanishingly rare, Republicans in Colorado may have a case of election fraud that they could point to, if they want to argue that signature-collecting and verification processes in the state should be tightened.
Keyser told The Denver Post on Monday that some of his signatures to get on the ballot "were turned in in an improper manner, and that's a very, very serious thing." The Denver district attorney's office announced that it is conducting a review into the forged signatures. However, Keyser insisted that he still collected enough signatures to compete in the primary.
This article has been updated with Keyser's comments to The Denver Post about the signatures collected.