Elections bill stirs passions

Vic Vela
Posted 4/16/13

A Democratic-sponsored bill that would put in place sweeping changes to how Colorado elections are conducted passed a state legislative committee on …

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Elections bill stirs passions


A Democratic-sponsored bill that would put in place sweeping changes to how Colorado elections are conducted passed a state legislative committee on April 15, following a lengthy and heavily debated hearing that went deep into the night.

House Bill 1303 would change the state’s election code to allow for same-day voter registration and would put ballots in the mailboxes of every registered voter.

The bill also would do away with a system where “inactive” voters — those who did not vote in the previous election — do not continue to receive mail-in ballots.

Democrats say the changes would encourage more involvement in the voting process, and would save taxpayer dollars on things like voting equipment, because fewer people would need to vote in person.

The bill’s sponsors argue that Colorado voters want greater voting access and that legislators should respond to their desires.

“People have demanded that we reform our elections system, and it is time for us to design an election system around our voters,” House Majority Leader Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, D-Gunbarrel, a bill sponsor, told members of the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

But Republicans argue that the changes could lead to greater voting fraud and that the Democrats’ efforts on the bill are self-serving attempts to boost their own party’s voter rolls.

Applause erupted from the audience when Rep. Tim Dore, R-Elizabeth, questioned the sponsors’ motives, telling committee members, “I don’t hear the outcry from voters.”

“I’m trying to get my arms around why we’re doing this,” he said.

The bill passed the Democratic-controlled committee on a 7-4 vote, on the heels of a hearing that lasted more than seven hours.

Among those who testified was Jefferson County Clerk Pam Anderson, a Republican who is the president of the Colorado County Clerks Association, who said the bill puts “ballots in the hands of voters in a cost-effective manner.”

“As a whole, over three quarters of (CCCA members) support this legislation as an important and timely policy that looks to the future,” Anderson said.

Anderson also tried to alleviate the concerns that mailing ballots to every registered voter in the state would lead to greater voting fraud. She said the bill would provide “necessary security for the (voting) system” and that there really isn’t much fraud going on in Colorado elections to begin with.

Several Republican officeholders oppose the bill, including El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Wayne Williams, who believes that same-day voter registration would make it impossible to catch those who try to cheat the system.

“The more the people of the State of Colorado and El Paso County learn about this terrible piece of legislation, the more they don’t like it,” Williams said in a news release prior to the hearing.

Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler, who vehemently opposes the bill, called the legislation “flawed.”

“This is an example of bad government,” he said.

The bill now moves to the House Appropriations Committee.


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