Printed letters, April 28, 2013

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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 with preventing nonexistent “voter fraud” at all costs – even if so doing means denying and/or suppressing some citizens’ constitutional right to vote, Democrats properly seek to expand and guarantee that right – even if that means accepting statistically insignificant but routinely detectable incidents of attempted registration and/or voter fraud.
Nevertheless, as suggested by the Denver Post’s editorial board (“What’s the rush on same-day voter registration in Colorado?  Democratic legislators are wrong to push for same-day registration in Colorado as soon as this year”, April 18, 2013), we may be moving faster than our existing and anticipated 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.

Laudably, 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 does not reaffirm Colorado’s constitutional commitment to the “secret ballot” or restores previously lost transparency, and then “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 publicly demonstrated disregard for ballot secrecy and successful campaign against genuine election transparency.
Indeed, why should a 63 member lobbying group control Colorado’s elections – when more credible election experts abound?

Thus, the public policy questions remain 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.

The goal should be to have all voted ballots – impenetrably anonymous as the Colorado Constitution requires – publicly posted on the internet before an election is certified.

Many of your Senate colleagues appear to be supporting HB-1303.  Support seems to be based on intentionally misleading statements by one of Colorado’s smallest, but most powerful lobbying groups – the Colorado County Clerks Association, funded by public coffers and voting system vendors.

Representatives of this secret, non-governmental organization have been given the key role in crafting the legislation. 

1.    Their representatives have been identified as “stakeholders” and permitted to be the major formulators of the bill.  Yet, this special interest group’s members are infected with a self-serving willingness to sacrifice election security, accuracy and transparency, and satisfy their desires to restrict who can authenticate public elections and to avoid accountability in their offices.

2.    Their representatives have been given substantial time at the hearing table.  Yet the public, the actual stakeholders,  and citizen experts, have been limited to 2 minute sound bites. 

3.    Their representatives suggest that the “Association” supports the bill, but refuse to disclose the stances of the 63 individual members (all elected officials).  A recent Citizen Center survey of 64 clerks to learn their individual views received only 3 responses—apparently withheld at the direction of the CCCA.  The public does not know which clerks support this embarrassingly self-serving bill.

4.    Their representatives operate behind a wall of secrecy. 

a.    The public is not permitted to observe their meetings. 

b.    They act like they are official government representatives, but they are not. 

c.    Their members do not keep public records of and do not respond to election problems reported by the public –including violations of the law, errors, and suspected fraud.

d.    The organization works to block convenient, affordable public access to election records needed for research. 

5.    Their representatives deceive the legislature, asserting with confidence that there are few “voter fraud convictions”.  But they don’t tell you the whole ugly story.  What about the many uninvestigated instances of:

a.    Known fraud and errors by election officials?

b.    Known fraud and errors by voting systems?

c.    Unprosecuted voter fraud?

d.    Undetected but suspected voter fraud?

e.    Known Voter intimidation?

f.    Vote buying?

g.    Purposeful, biased, misinterpretation of laws and rules?

h.    The plain fact that District Attorneys are reluctant to prosecute voter and official misconduct?

i.    And simply, how many problems are being reported for each election?

6.    When, Senator, do you get the full story? And when does the public get answers to our questions?

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