Voting roll change dies in committee

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A state legislative committee Wednesday killed a Republican-sponsored bill that sought to kick non-citizens off voter rolls.

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives' State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee voted against allowing the bill to proceed through the legislative process, on a 7-3 vote.

The bill would have required the Colorado secretary of state to cross-check statewide voter registration lists with federal citizenship databases. If, after an administrative process, it was determined that a voter is a non-citizen, then the secretary of state would be tasked with electronically canceling that person's voter registration record.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Lori Saine, R-Dacono, said "non-citizens are voting" in Colorado and a law like this was needed to prevent American voters from being "disenfranchised" by the electoral system.

"The integrity of our elections is a non-partisan issue," Saine said.

Saine's bill follows last year's controversial search for non-citizen voters by Secretary of State Scott Gessler. Gessler's office sent nearly 4,000 letters to suspected non-citizens prior to the November election.

One of those voters who received a letter was Denver resident Veronica Figoli-Fleischer, who is originally from Venezuela, but who has been U.S. citizen since 2011. She testified that the letter she received made her feel like "a second-class citizen."

"I'm not making drama, but I really felt like someone was punching my stomach," Figoli-Fleischer said.

Democrats on the committee said the bill is tantamount to voter suppression. They also noted that federal citizenry databases are fraught with inaccuracies.

Rep. Joseph Salazar, D-Thornton, said the bill solves "a problem that doesn't exist," because such a small number of non-citizens even try to vote.

Salazar also said he would hate for members of his own family to get caught up "in dirty data in a federal database because of their last name."

Committee member Rep. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, recalled the citizenship of his own father – who was born in Texas – being called into question, when his father was trying to obtain a passport 10 years ago. Moreno said that such a bill could lead to more cases like his fathers' where citizens "are denied their constitutional rights."

"The fundamental nature of the bill is, in my opinion, flawed," Moreno said.

Three Republicans voted for moving the bill forward: Reps. Timothy Dore of Elizabeth, Dan Nordberg of Colorado Springs, and Ray Scott of Grand Junction. GOP Rep. Stephen Humphrey of Severance was absent from Wednesday's hearing.