Also worth keeping in mind—and making clear to readers—is that whatever the merits of Gessler’s approach, the laws on Colorado’s books are not especially restrictive compared to those now in effect in many states. In that same post, Silver guesstimates that Pennsylvania’s new law could swing the presidential vote there about 1.2% toward the GOP, while changes in other states might boost Republicans by less than half a percentage point. Colorado doesn’t make his list.

These issues are complex and contested enough that reporters may not be able to say with confidence who has the better of the argument, or what impact the stricter rules will have. But by taking a deeper look and raising their ambitions—which would mean finding connections between what’s happening here and elsewhere around the country, and seeking out voices other than Gessler and his local adversaries—journalists could make the story more compelling, more accessible, and more meaningful. They might, in the process, help some voters cast their ballots more smoothly on Election Day. That’s all well worth doing, even if the next Katherine Harris isn’t in Colorado.

Mary Winter has worked for seven newspapers, most recently the Denver Post, and was assistant managing editor at She spent the bulk of her career at the Rocky Mountain News, first in features and later managing the legislative and state government teams. In 2008, she oversaw delegate coverage at the Democratic National Convention for the paper. She wrote a weekly column for the News for 10 years.