DENVER — For a few weeks, most of the Democratic organizers in Colorado who encountered James O’Keefe recognized and resisted the conservative provocateur’s attempts to bait them into endorsing voter fraud.
But not all of them.
Two days after a number of left-leaning media outlets first warned that O’Keefe has been in Colorado, he is releasing a nearly eight-minute video of edited footage taken over a few weeks of filming here.
It includes hidden-camera interactions with three young Democratic organizers, two of whom are recorded agreeing with O’Keefe’s suggestion that they fill out unmarked ballots in order to help Democratic Sen. Mark Udall hold onto his seat.
Udall is locked in a tight battle with GOP Congressman Cory Gardner that could swing the balance of power in Washington — a race likely to be impacted by Colorado’s new elections law, passed last year by the Democrat-controlled legislature, that mandates that mail-in ballots be sent to all voters and allows voters to register as late as Election Day.
Republicans maintain that the law will enable voter fraud, which is the thesis O’Keefe sets out to prove.
None of the people appearing in O’Keefe’s video are shown actually committing voter fraud — just talking about it with him and others pretending to be Udall supporters.
Realistically, even if individuals are engaging in voter fraud, Colorado clerks have invested in state-of-the-art electronic ballot processing equipment that verifies that the signature on each ballot matches the signature on file before the ballot itself is even tabulated.
“We have non-partisan election judges looking at every signature on every ballot that comes in before we even unseal the ballot itself,” said Denver Clerk and Recorder Debra Johnson Monday during a tour of the county’s ballot processing facility downtown.
“If anything doesn’t look right, we send that voter a letter asking for a better signature to match what we have on file.”
While this Mother Jones dispatch makes clear that many organizers O’Keefe encountered not only didn’t take the bait but recognized the infamous provocateur, a few others did not.
Naturally, they’re the ones who appear in the video.
“If they are not eligible to vote and all these people are throwing out ballots, let’s use those ballots to vote,” O’Keefe says to Meredith Hicks, the director of Work For Progress in Boulder.
“Yes,” Hicks responds.
“So we can get as many votes as possible,” O’Keefe continues.
“Definitely,” says Hicks.
“I mean, they lie and cheat all the time,” O’Keefe says, seemingly referring to Republicans.
“I mean that’s not even lying and stealing,” Hicks says. “If someone throws out the ballot, if you want to fill it out you should do it.”
Reached by phone Tuesday night, Hicks initially told FOX31 Denver she knew O’Keefe but then said she didn’t recall an interaction like the one he secretly recorded.
“I don’t have anything to say about that,” she said.
Christen Topping, another organizer O’Keefe encountered who is working for Greenpeace (the group itself is not involved in any Get Out The Vote efforts on Udall’s behalf), also endorses the idea of filling out unmarked ballots for Udall and suggests that he search for them in trash cans in “ghetto Aurora, like north Aurora, because south is like yuppieville.
Topping goes on to tell O’Keefe that people in north Aurora “don’t really care.”
As far back as Oct. 1, O’Keefe and an assistant also tried to approach workers at the Fort Collins office of New Era Colorado, a progressive group that works to register new voters, but was turned away.
Steve Fenberg, the group’s director, believes O’Keefe was trying to establish that the non-profit was coordinating with Udall’s campaign, which is prohibited by law.
“O’Keefe came to Colorado to make a video about something that doesn’t exist, so he has to invent it by entrapping people,” Fenberg told FOX31 Denver Tuesday night.
“We invest hundreds of hours into training our staff and volunteers to know the rules each year. Our folks immediately realized that O’Keefe was trying to bait them. O’Keefe’s team followed our organizers and even our volunteers with an undercover camera multiple times over a few weeks trying to bait us, but we never fell for it.
“Keep in mind O’Keefe has been arrested for this stuff before,” Fenberg continued. “Clearly he shouldn’t be treated as a trusted source of information about fraud.”
Indeed, O’Keefe was one of three people arrested for phone tampering at the New Orleans office of Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana; he was sentenced to 100 hours of community service, three years probation and fined $1,500.