Don’t trade one set of problems for another

For much of Colorado’s history, elected secretaries of state have served just fine as overseers of our elections, regardless of their party affiliation. Although there have been occasional disputes about voting methods, recounts or ballot preparation, most have been handled without significant partisan rancor.

That was before current Secretary of State Scott Gessler, a Republican who has done more to politicize the elections function of his office than any of his predecessors. That’s evident in the number of legal challenges, ethics charges and official complaints related to his office and for Gessler personally.

But the solution to problems caused by Gessler, we believe, is for opponents to recruit and support quality candidates to run against Gessler in 2014. It is not to try to replace the secretary of state’s functions with an elections commission, as a citizens advocacy group that is frequently at odds with Gessler has proposed.

The Daily Sentinel’s Charles Ashby reported Wednesday that a group called Colorado Ethics Watch is pursuing the idea of an independent elections commission to assume the elections functions now held by the secretary of state.

Because the duties of the secretary of state are set forth in the Colorado Constitution, any effort to change those responsibilities would require amending the Constitution.

With that in mind, Colorado Ethics Watch is considering both a citizen’s ballot initiative, which could not be placed on the ballot until 2014, or a referred measure from the state Legislature, if enough support can be found in the state Capitol for such a measure.

We hoped effort doesn’t proceed, for a number of reasons.

First, it would require an amendment to the state Constitution, and we remain skeptical of any more tinkering with the Constitution that could have unforeseen consequences.

Among the foreseeable consequences of the proposed bipartisan elections commission is the same sort of partisan bickering that now occurs in the Legislature and an inability to act, or at best, decisions made at a snails pace.

Furthermore, would the commission have equal numbers of Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters? Would the commission makeup change regularly to more accurately reflect voter affiliation in Colorado? That’s a recipe for more partisan battles, not fewer.

Finally, would citizens or groups take their complaints and concerns to the entire commission? To paid staff members who could not make decisions?

Coloradans should elect the best candidates for secretary of state, those who have demonstrated they are not excessively partisan. They shouldn’t create a new bureacracy that is likely to cause us to trade one set of problems for another.


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