Senate OKs elections bill over protests of some in GOP

DENVER — A bill that affects how special districts conduct their elections has given some Senate Republicans “a sense of horror” that “fraudifies” the election process and should be called “The Voter Fraud Election Act.”

Still other GOP lawmakers have said that House Bill 1164, which the Colorado Senate approved Tuesday on a 19-13 vote, would lead to Stalin-style elections.

Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, joined all 18 Democrats in support of the measure, saying later he would ask the Senate to reconsider it. Only legislators who vote on the prevailing side of a bill are allowed to do that.

But supporters of the bill, including the Special District Association of Colorado and the Colorado Municipal League, say it merely creates a new elections code for special districts that mirrors the state’s long-standing municipal election laws.

Republicans, however, dislike the measure because it is an extension of last year’s controversial HB1303, the Voter Access & Modernized Elections Act, which allowed for same-day voter registration and all-mail ballot elections.

“It will cost the people of Colorado not just in dollars and cents, but in the integrity of their elections,” said Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud. “Elections are the essential quality of a self-governed people. I cannot speak in terms strong enough to truly convey my sense of horror over what is being accomplished through 1164. The process that I’ve seen this bill go through this Legislature underscores the lack of integrity that we’re putting into our election process.”

But Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, D-Westminster, said last year’s measure neglected to include municipalities, special districts and school districts, all of which are supposed to be nonpartisan elections.

He said the bill clarifies that those districts, of which there are thousands in the state, have local control over their elections.

“All politics are local, but the folks who are elected to school boards or to fire districts or library districts are usually the most personal interface that we have with government, so we need some certainty in how we conduct elections with those special districts,” Ulibarri said. “There has been thorough vetting of the issues here in this bill. We’ve used much of the same statutes that we use in the municipal code because it’s worked for the last five decades.”

Republicans also complained that the bill removes the Colorado Secretary of State from having any oversight of the special district elections, but Ulibarri and the special district association say that Secretary of State Scott Gessler asked that his office be removed from any oversight because the office already has little authority over their elections.

Republicans also have complained that the bill is being rushed through the Legislature, but the association says it needs to be because 170 statutory towns in the state are holding municipal elections on April 1, and more than 2,000 special districts will have their elections more than a month later.

The bill has to return to the Colorado House for more debate before it can head to Gov. John Hickenlooper’s desk.


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