Video falsely claims to show Colorado county clerk employee registering only supporters of Mitt Romney
The young woman in a popular Internet video who claims to be working for a Colorado county clerk’s office while registering only people who will vote for Mitt Romney was not working for the clerk’s office.
A video posted on YouTube on Friday shows the woman conducting a voter registration drive at a Safeway grocery store in Colorado Springs. She asks a shopper who filmed their exchange on a cell phone, “would you vote for Romney or Obama?” and explains “I’m actually trying to register people for a particular party because we’re out here in support of Romney.”
Asked by the shopper to identify her employer, the woman hesitates, then says, “we’re working for the county clerk’s office.”
The video has been viewed more than 130,000 times.
In a statement late Sunday, County Clerk Williams denied any connection between his office and the woman in the video. On Monday, the clerk’s office and the El Paso County GOP told the Globe that the woman worked for the Republican National Committee’s local victory office. However, a spokesman for the RNC Monday evening denied that the woman worked for the local victory office.
Williams is a former chairman of the El Paso County Republican Party, and the Romney campaign announced his endorsement in February. Williams is an advocate of a state voter identification law that would require proof of citizenship for registration and photo IDs at the polls. Such measures in other states have been challenged in court as discriminatory toward minorities, who tend to vote Democratic.
In his statement, Williams suggested the woman might have been confused because the registration forms she collected had to be delivered to his office.
“The statement made in this video is both unfortunate and inaccurate,” Williams said. “My office does not and will not engage in partisan voter registration. It is the duty of the clerk’s office to ensure that elections are conducted in a fair and honest manner; this includes allowing anyone to register to vote regardless of their political party affiliation.”
It is legal for party workers to target supporters of a particular candidate during voter registration drives, but they cannot deny forms to people who back another candidate.
The current chairman of the El Paso County Republican Party, Eli Bremer, said in an interview that the woman in the video is 20-years-old and was in her first day on the job as a victory office staff member. Bremer said the local GOP works closely with the RNC victory office and that “one thing they hammer into you during training is that every paper you collect must be turned in to the clerk’s office.”
Bremer said he talked at length with the woman, whose name has not been released, and said she was merely flustered by the shopper’s questions and misidentified her employer. He insisted there was no collaboration on the voter registration drive between the victory office and Williams or the clerk’s office.
Bremer described the video as a “hatchet job.” In the video, the shopper says “I’ve got it all on tape” and tells the young woman “that’s all I need, honey bunch” after the young woman says she works for the clerk’s office.
Bremer also accused the shopper of attempting to prevent the young woman from exiting the Safeway parking lot and of briefly following the woman’s car.
“They knew she didn’t work for the county clerk,” Bremer said. “They may have commited a crime in the process. I think it’s reprehensible, and I think the Democrats should apologize.”
The identity of the shopper, whose YouTube screen name is “golddiggermom,” is unknown, but the Globe spoke by phone Monday with a woman who claimed to be the shopper. A member of the El Paso County Democratic Party’s executive committee facilitated the interview and confirmed that the woman was the shopper.
The shopper, who said she is the Democratic chair of a county precinct, described the video as the result of a serendipitous encounter. She said that on her way into the grocery story, she initially praised the young woman for registering voters but was alarmed when the young woman replied that she was registering only “some” voters.
The shopper said she decided to confront the young woman on her way out of the store, filming their conversation while at first pretending to talk on her cell phone. She said her angry reaction was “not my finest moment” and said she did write down the license plate number of the vehicle driven by the young woman.
The shopper said the timing of the video’s posting -- more than a month after it was filmed -- was not politically strategic, as Bremer charged. She said she went out of town for a few weeks and needed help editing out the young woman’s name, which she did not want to make public. She said her purpose was to illuminate the practice of selective registration.
Christy Le Lait, executive director of the El Paso County Democratic Party, echoed the shopper’s stated mission, saying “we should be registering everyone to vote, regardless of party.”Callum Borchers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.