Mesa County ahead of curve on elections reform
A revamp of Colorado election laws pending before the state Legislature that would allow for same-day registration also would fall short of some of the improvements already instituted in Mesa County.
The bill, HB 1303, has the support of the Colorado County Clerks Association and Mesa County Clerk Sheila Reiner.
“Overall I think the bill is really solid,” Reiner said Thursday in an interview with The Daily Sentinel.
The measure stands to save her office about $80,000, although her office already has instituted many of the reforms included in the law, which passed a House committee on Thursday.
The provision allowing Election Day registration also would mandate that clerks send out mail ballots to all voters in all elections.
Mail-in balloting costs about $4 a person while in-person voting requires that counties pay $30 to $35 a head, Reiner said.
Some of the changes contained in the bill would lower the cost of mail-in ballots in Mesa County by about $1 a vote, Elections Director Catherine Lenhart said.
The measure, which drew scorn from Secretary of State Scott Gessler and Republicans as a measure that would open the door to voter fraud, also would require counties to operate vote centers on Election Day, much as Mesa County does now.
The number of vote centers in Mesa County already run on Election Day, six, doubles the minimum required by state law, Reiner said.
“We feel we’re in a really good place since we’ve been doing this since 2006,” Reiner said.
Improvements in technology make it possible to accommodate same-day registration, Reiner said, noting that a series of changes over the years has taken Colorado close to same-day registration already.
The measure also would require counties to offer locations at which ballots could be returned at any time of day, something that would be welcomed in Mesa County, Reiner said.
Provisional voting — in which voters are allowed to cast ballots, which are counted when officials verify the voter’s eligibility — is one example, Reiner said.
The legislation also would establish a commission that would monitor how the new law was implemented, Reiner said.
State Republicans said the measure, drafted with the help of organizations usually associated with Democrats, would take away the right to vote in a traditional neighborhood polling place on Election Day and allow same-day registration without adequate safeguards.
“Never before in the history of Colorado has one party made such sweeping changes to our electoral process without working across the aisle,” state Republican Party Chairman Ryan Call said in a statement.