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Election reform bill this year? Maybe

By Charles Ashby

Colorado House Speaker Terrance Carroll, D-Denver, released a statement today saying he still hasn't decided if a controversial measure to reform some election laws will be introduced this year.

The proposal drew criticism from Republicans and some county clerks this week, saying it's just too late in the 2010 session to introduce such controversial ideas as extending voter registration dates from 29 days before an election to just a few day before it.

Since a 68-page draft as circulated around the Colorado Capitol and elsewhere in the state, Republicans have called it a measure that would open up Colorado elections to errors and outright election fraud.

Carroll, however, says all that is just nonsense. His statement:

“I wanted to take this opportunity to update you on the Modernization of Elections draft.  I have held a number of meetings this morning with stakeholders, including Secretary of State Bernie Buescher and leadership of the clerks association. As a result, we have renewed a commitment to work together in refinement of policies outlined in the original draft.  While the end product may look different than the original, there is a will to move forward in continued dialogue.

“In addition to these conversations, I have worked with the (House) Minority Leader Mike May (R-Parker) to identify a bipartisan group of legislators to guide this legislation.

The election modernization concept has two main goals: To ensure safe and fair fraud-free elections for all eligible Colorado voters, and to ensure counties have the ability to run cost-effective, efficient, and timely elections.

“I want to be clear that I am leaving all options open, including running legislation this year.   

“All we are asking for is to have an honest dialogue with stakeholders about our future elections, without partisan spin and misinformation.”

Not long after that statement was released, Secretary of State Bernie Buescher issued one of his own:

 “Throughout the past year traveling to many of the county clerks’ offices, the most often repeated concern I hear is the rising costs of elections and shrinking county budgets,” Buescher said. “My aim in working with the county clerks and speaker Carroll is to streamline some of our election processes to generate cost savings for the counties, while preserving the accessibility and security of our present system.”
 
Although an initial draft has been widely circulated, details of any potential legislation remain in the discussion phase. Many county clerks throughout the state support the concept of all-mail voting in even-year elections, citing a savings of as much as 65 percent compared to polling place elections.
 
“These are challenging economic times for the state and counties, and that forces many of us to review our spending practices,” said Douglas County Clerk Jack Arrowsmith. “The majority of our voters have already requested a mail ballot and most counties hold all mail elections in odd-years. This is a practical solution that saves taxpayers money.”
 
Also, among the topics of conversation, involves shrinking the window for voters to register before Election Day. Currently, state law requires citizens to register more than 29 days before the election.
 
“The 29-day voter registration timeline was implemented based on a paper system, not the state’s real-time statewide system,” said Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall. “We’re continuing to discuss modern day options that continue to enfranchise voters while also preserving the strict safeguards already in place preventing voter fraud.”
 
Parties said the conversations will continue through the end of the week and no decision has been made on whether a bill will be introduced this session.

Meanwhile, Republicans continue to issue statements attacking it:

Colorado Republicans charged today that legislation drafted in secret and on the verge of being introduced in the waning weeks of the 2010 legislative session by House Speaker Terrance Carroll will result in "ACORN-inspried voter fraud."

"Why did speaker Carroll and his compliant toady Bernie Buescher draft this election rigging bill in secret with no input from Republican legislators or county clerks?" asked Colorado Republican Chairman Dick Wadhams. "Colorado did not experience the vast voter fraud perpetrated by ACORN 'community organizers' across the nation in 2008 but speaker Carroll seems intend on making sure it will happen in Colorado in 2010."

Colorado Republicans released a video with national news clips detailing the ACORN abuses and warning such illegal activity will be welcome in Colorado under the Carroll-Buescher bill.

"Allowing people to show up on Election Day, register to vote, and then immediately cast a ballot opens the door to the kind of voter fraud Colorado has been fortunate to avoid in the past year," Wadham said. "Allowing organizations to accumulate ballots invites the kind of voter intimidation Colorado has never seen before.

There's a reason why the vast majority of county clerks, Democrat and Republican, oppose this bill. It is wrong for our state and it is wrong for Carroll and Buescher to try to ram this through during the waning days of the legislative sesson just months before the November general election," Wadhams said.

ACORN might have allegedly dismantled their national organization but it's clear their 'community organizing' to defraud elections will rise again in 2010," Wadhams said. 'The Carroll-Buescher 'Rig the Election Act' will welcome this unethical and illegal activity to Colorado."

More to come.

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