A YouTube video showing what the uploader suggests is "voter suppression" in El Paso County, Colo., has been sparking controversy during an political season in which changes to voter ID and registration laws stand to have an impact on elections nationwide.
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In the video, YouTube user "golddiggermom" leaves a grocery store and confronts a young volunteer registering voters just outside the shop. The volunteer asks the videographer if she's voting for Mitt Romney or Barack Obama, leading the videographer to question if the volunteer is registering all voters or only those of a particular party. The volunteer admits she's "trying to register people for a particular party. . .because we're out here in support of Romney." The volunteer also nervously says she's working for the County Clerk's Office.
The videographer quickly becomes upset with the young volunteer, saying "you cannot come out and and register one party, lady." The volunteer stumbles, partially backtracks her earlier answer about registering only one party, but then recommits to it. She gives her name, which is censored by the videographer.
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On first glance, the video, which has nearly 300,000 views, seems to deliver evidence of voter registration foul play. However, further details point to a likely case of inexperience and ignorance on the part of the volunteer.
The El Paso County Clerk, Wayne Williams, said that the young volunteer doesn't work for his office -- which makes sense, as it's all but unheard of for a County Clerk's Office to be involved with a partisan voter registration drive (though Williams was previously Chairman of the El Paso County Republican Party). It is illegal in Colorado to register voters from only one party.
As reported by local outlet KOAA, the volunteer turned out to be working for the Colorado Republican Committee.
"It was her first day on the job and she panicked," El Paso County Republican Chairman Eli Bremer told KOAA, seeking to explain why she gave an apparently confused answer when asked about her affiliation. "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."
The background of the creator of the video also raised questions about her goals. The woman who shot the video was identified to KOAA as "a volunteer with several different organizations including the El Paso Democratic Party." Mashable has reached out to the videographer to learn more about her intentions, and we'll update this post with any response.
The viral video has become a political hot topic in local Colorado politics: Area Republicans are charging the videographer with having held the video until closer to Election Day to maximize the political impact. Democrats are denying the allegation, saying the video was held just long enough to edit out the young volunteer's name.
Colorado state law, meanwhile, prohibits voter registration staff from the following:
- Seek to influence an applicant's political preference or party registration
- Display any political preference or party allegiance
- 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