Attack on Reiner is anything but fair

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Now that the virulent right-wing opposition to HB 13-1303 – the “Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act” – has been exposed by the Daily Sentinel (“Flier assails Mesa County clerk”, April 21, 2013), deemed “laughable” by its editors (“Attack on Reiner anything but fair”, April 23, 2013), and gained deserved notoriety in national media, it’s time to revisit the substance of that legislation.

As chronicled by Bill Grant (“Legislators should not rush to pass election act without public comment”, April 17, 2013), the bill seeks to expand voter participation in what will become predominately “mail in” paper ballot elections, and mandates multiple untested administrative changes.  While its rabid opponents cite an alleged potential for widespread “voter fraud”, even our partisan Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler has already proven that such fears are the product of baseless paranoia—not evidence.

Thus, while Republicans seem consumed by preventing nonexistent “voter fraud” at all costs – even if so doing means denying and/or suppressing some citizens’ constitutional right to vote, Democrats seek to expand and guarantee that right – even if that means accepting statistically insignificant but detectable incidents of attempted registration and/or voter fraud – but may be moving faster than our election infrastructure can handle.

According to the Carter Center’s internationally acclaimed Democracy Project, truly “democratic” elections should be conducted by impartial officials, employ permanently   “secret ballots”, and be entirely transparent before, during, and after elections.

Therefore, HB 13-1303 creates a Colorado Voter Access and Modernized Elections Commission – an “impartial” panel capable of evaluating the recommendations of the Colorado County Clerks Association (CCCA) and their implementation by a partisan Secretary of State—but neither reaffirms Colorado’s constitutional commitment to the “secret ballot” nor restores previously lost transparency, and “sunsets” in 2015.

Moreover, HB 13-1303 allocates two Commission seats to the CCCA – without requiring that taxpayer-supported and thus quasi-public (if not partisan) organization to disclose its outside sources of lobbying funds – despite the CCCA’s demonstrated disdain for ballot secrecy and concerted opposition to genuine election transparency.

Thus, the public policy questions remains whether HB 13-1303’s wide-ranging election law changes should be implemented before or – perhaps better—after the Commission considers both public input and that of the election rights experts to be appointed by the Governor, and whether the Commission should be made permanent (like the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission).

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