Elections measure sent to governor

DENVER — Democrats in the Colorado House approved an elections bill Monday despite repeated objections from Republicans that it is fraught with errors.

Democrats said the measure, HB1164, is needed to modernize elections in special districts, as last year’s new election reform law did for all other elections.

Republicans, however, say it invites voter fraud and disenfranchises some voters, particularly members of the military.

The bill ensures that voters in special district, municipal and school district elections can receive mail-in ballots and register to vote up to the day of the election. It also alters residency rules to make all three in line with each other, requiring voters to reside in those districts at least 22 days before an election.

Republicans, who have long objected to all-mail ballots and same-day registrations, say the measure fails to fix problems with last year’s measure. As a result, House Republicans tried to persuade Democrats to send the bill to a special conference committee to work out problems with it.

“As we have learned from prior electoral legislation that has a lot of moving parts, that there are unintended consequences, and that is always a danger here, but it is in bigger danger when you have a hundred-plus pages of legislation dealing with an entire electoral system,” Rep. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, said on the House floor. “We have seen in recent times a tendency ... that things get pushed through despite legitimate public concern and objection, and I think that we have seen clearly that the public expects more of their elected officials.”

Democrats, however, said there is nothing wrong with the measure, saying it repairs problems with last year’s law and brings special districts in line with it.

They say it has the backing of municipalities, special districts, school districts and county clerks, all of whom helped draft the bill.

“I represent two rural counties, Eagle and Routt. One has a Democratic clerk, one has a Republican clerk,” said Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, D-Steamboat Springs. “Both of them strongly, and I mean strongly, email after email have urged me to vote yes on this bill and all its provisions. Likewise in my rural counties, there are lots of special districts. All of their board directors and attorneys have asked me to vote yes.”

The districts needed the bill to be approved on Monday to meet deadlines for their April elections.

Gov. John Hickenlooper is expected to sign the bill today, said his press secretary, Eric Brown.


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