Ballot bill becomes law

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June 13, 2012

Grand Junction Daily Sentinel
734 South 7th Street
Grand Junction, CO 81501

Dear Editors:

  As today’s editorial (“Ballot bill becomes law”) suggests, “he who respects the law and loves sausage should observe neither being made”.  Newly enacted amendments to the Colorado Open Records Act (“CORA”) aptly illustrate that venerable epigram.

  HB12-1036 originally dealt only with “access to documents and records related to non-criminal investigations of public officials” (records related to ongoing criminal investigations were already exempt from CORA) and was (not surpisingly!) “supported by the heads of a number of state agencies”.

  SB12-155 was the “CORA blackout bill” sponsored by the Colorado County Clerks Association (“CCCA”) – a nominally taxpayer-funded organization that refuses to disclose its outside funding sources and whose lobbying efforts were bankrolled by the electronic voting machine industry – which sought to deny public access to voted ballots.

  As the Sentinel chronicled, the latter bill was modified and then grafted onto the former at the last minute – with only abbreviated deliberation – and therefore sparked controversy both as to both substance and process.

  As to substance, many election law experts and voting rights advocates – and The Denver Post – urged the governor to veto SB12-155 so that it could be duly considered separately. 

  As to process, because both bills created new exceptions to CORA, the combined bill will likely survive threatened legal challenges based on the Colorado Constitution’s “single subject” mandate.  Facing a “both or neither” choice, Governor Hickenlooper signed the bill into law.

  Now that the CCCA has obtained its CORA “blackout” period, the public’s – and the Sentinel’s – attention should return to the underlying issues made less transparent by SB12-1036, to wit:  Colorado elections are being run by officials (including Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Sheila Reiner) whose submissions to the federal district court insist that “there is no fundamental constitutional right to a secret ballot” and whose procedures make voted ballots traceable to voters’ identities.

              Bill Hugenberg
              543 Rim Drive
              Grand Junction, CO 81507
Word Count = 300         257-1998

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