Sharp discord marks vote on election reform

Bill clears Senate on party lines, goes back to House for final vote

DENVER — To Democrats, a bill to revamp the way the state’s elections are conducted is nothing more than an attempt at modernizing the practice.

To Republicans, however, HB1303 is nothing short of the beginning of the end to Colorado elections as we know it.

So it came as no surprise to anyone, after four hours of sometimes heated debate Thursday, that the bill passed the Senate on a 20-15 party-line vote.

“What I see is a dismantling of our system of fair and free elections,” said Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud. “We can destroy the election process in the state of Colorado. We can destroy the confidence in the elections process. We can destroy the outcome of the elections. What we have with this bill allows fraud.”

The main sticking point of the bill, which heads back to the House for a final vote, is a provision that allows voters to register up to Election Day.

Republicans argued that the bill doesn’t attempt to change existing law, which allows voters to register without having to show any form of identification, and then cast a ballot with only a utility bill to verify their residency, all on the same day.

As a result, GOP senators said, clerks won’t have enough time to verify those voters are legally eligible to cast a ballot, or haven’t voted more than once.

The clerks, however, argue that’s not the case.

They say the law already allows for last-minute registrations, adding that same-day registrations would work the same: Ballots cast aren’t counted until their residency is verified, and they have 30 days after an election to do that.

The bill doesn’t change any of that, Democrats said.

Sen. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo and a sponsor of the bill, said she didn’t understand why all Republicans in the Senate and House opposed the bill that was supported by 75 percent of the state’s 64 county clerks.

Sixty-two percent of those clerks are Republican, she said.

Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, said numerous other states have same-day voting, some for as long as 40 years, and elections there haven’t destroyed democracy.

Regardless, Republican senators continued to argue the bill would delegitimize the state’s elections, saying they would become like those held in Iran, Venezuel and “banana republics.”

Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, said same-day registrations invite people to vote more than once, and that could change the outcome of races.

“When elections are stolen in that manner, it calls into question the integrity of the electoral process,” Brophy said. “That authority to govern ... is the foundation of a republican form of government, and this bill calls that into question. It turns us into a banana republic.”



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