Unaffiliated voter bill raises questions

DENVER — If unaffiliated voters designate a preference in which major parties’ primary they want to cast a ballot without actually joining that party, they would be tagged as someone who voted in that political primary under a bill that is racing through the Colorado Legislature.

Some county clerks say that provision in SB305, a bill that was introduced only last Wednesday and is being fast-tracked, flies in the face of the ballot question voters overwhelmingly approved last fall that allows unaffiliated voters to cast ballots in the party primary races without having to declare affiliation with that party.

The bill, which won preliminary approval in the Colorado Senate on Friday, calls for sending voters two ballots during a primary election, with instructions to return only one.

But the bill also calls for creating a special box in voter registration forms allowing unaffiliated voters to chose a preference without actually affiliating with a party.

While they are not required to do so, those who do would only receive that party’s primary ballot for all future primaries until the voter designates a change.

Additionally, their names will be recorded in the Statewide Voter Registration System as making a preference for that party, even though they are not official members.

Some county clerks, including Mesa County’s Sheila Reiner, say that is tantamount to unaffiliated voters having to declare a party in a primary race before getting a ballot, which is what the law required before last fall’s measure.

“My hesitation with the bill is having the voters pick a preferred party, and having the ballot they chose be public information post election even if the vote itself is still confidential,” Reiner said.

“We already receive calls from upset voters on whether or not they cast a ballot is public record. When the party that the unaffiliated voters have chosen becomes public information, I anticipate some additional unhappiness,” she said.

Sponsors of the bill, Sens. Stephen Fenberg, D-Boulder, and Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, said the state’s clerks favored the bill, even though several do not.

Neither one made mention of the SCORE database when the bill was debated on the Senate floor Friday, nor told their colleagues that unaffiliated voters who made a party preference would only receive that party’s primary ballot. Instead, they said all unaffiliated voters would receive two primary ballots.

Sen. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, said the bill did not reflect what the voters had approved in November.

The bill requires a final Senate vote, which likely will come on Monday, before heading to the House.

PROVIDER FEE

With little debate, the Senate gave preliminary approval to a bill that would turn the state’s hospital provider fee into a standalone government enterprise, freeing up millions of dollars in the state’s budget under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights revenue limit.

The measure, SB267, also calls for issuing about $1.8 billion in certificates of participation for road projects.

The bill, the product of weeks of intense negotiations between the GOP-controlled Senate and the Democratic-controlled House, requires a final Senate vote before heading to the House for more debate.


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