House OKs bill to revamp Colorado elections

DENVER — After hours of debate over the past two days, the Colorado House gave final approval to a bill Friday designed to modernize how Coloradans vote in elections.

Though the measure, HB1303, has support of nearly every county clerk in the state, most of whom are Republicans, not a single GOP representative supported it.

Most said that was because Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler was not involved in its drafting.

“I worry about the fiscal note (to the bill) when the secretary of state says it’s going to cost more, and they are the agency that would implement it,” said Rep. Tim Dore, R-Elizabeth. “I believe they were fairly ignored.”

That’s partly because Gessler and the clerks have long battled over several issues addressed in the bill, and House Democrats just don’t believe much of what he says.

House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, said Gessler’s office claims the bill would cost his staff and hired consultants $100 an hour to modify the statewide voter database to make the bill work, yet he estimated that similar modifications to that same database for another elections bill only would cost $75 an hour.

Under the bill, all registered voters automatically would receive mail ballots in every election, but would still have the chance to vote in person if they choose.

Additionally, voters would be able to register to vote all the way up to Election Day, and clerks could use one of several state databases to verify those registrations, including to see if those voters are eligible to vote.

In other matters, the House also gave final approval to bills that would allow workers in small companies to file discrimination lawsuits and allow firefighters to collectively bargain over work and safety issues on the job, but not for pay and benefits.

Meanwhile, the Senate Appropriations Committee didn’t fund but didn’t kill a measure calling for the creation of an air fleet to fight wildfires.

The measure’s sponsors, Sens. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, and Cheri Jahn, D-Wheat Ridge, were pleased but frustrated.

“We have the shell, now we just have to start filling in the shell,” Jahn said of the effort to create a standing forest fire air corps.

“The frustration that both Cheri and I have had is the governor, what’s his priorities here?” King added. “The fact that I’ve met with (Gov. John Hickenlooper’s) staff and he’s never once said, ‘Hey Steve, come on downstairs, let’s talk about this,’ causes me to be concerned. It makes me think that his priority is towards mitigation and not toward fire suppression and prevention.”

In the next week, the pair hope to engage the support of other lawmakers when the matter is discussed on the floor of the Senate.


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