Printed letters, April 28, 2013

The Colorado County Clerks Association told every member of the Legislature and the secretary of state’s office late last year that we were interested in talking about new legislation to simplify and modernize our elections.

 Why now? We are in an off-year election year, when it is far easier to implement changes. No one wants to do that in 2014 during a major election. Also, Colorado’s election technology gives us secure voting, whether a vote is cast by mail or in person.

Clerks are already using the technology required in the legislation. The new law will make elections more uniform throughout the state and make elections more budget-friendly to counties.

 Many thanks to Mesa County Clerk Sheila Reiner, La Plata County Clerk Tiffany Parker and many others who put hours into crafting a bill that simplifies elections for voters, modernizes the system and saves counties money. Their goal was to make it simple for voters. They get ballots in the mail for every election, and they decide how to vote – by mail, dropping ballots off or voting in person.

 New registrations (which would be allowed through Election Day) require a Colorado ID or a Social Security number and an address that can be verified. Real-time connections to the voter database will decrease the possibility of voter fraud.

 This is not the time to delay. This is the time to make these changes, before another general election rolls around. 

DONETTA DAVIDSON

Executive Director

Colorado County Clerks Association

Denver

Aspects of election bill
require more public input

Now that the virulent right-wing opposition to House Bill 1303 — the “Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act” — has been exposed by The Daily Sentinel, deemed “laughable” by its editors and gained notoriety in national media, it’s time to revisit the substance of that legislation.

As chronicled by Bill Grant in his April 17 column, the bill seeks to expand voter participation in what will become predominately “mail-in” paper ballot elections.

While its rabid opponents cite an alleged potential for widespread “voter fraud,” Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler has already proved that such fears are the product of paranoia, not evidence.

Republicans have long sought to prevent “voter fraud” at all costs — even if that includes denying and/or suppressing some citizens’ constitutional right to vote. Democrats seek to expand and guarantee that right — even if doing so means accepting a statistically insignificant but detectable incidence of attempted fraud.

Truly democratic elections should be conducted by impartial officials using only a secret ballot. They should remain entirely transparent before, during and after elections.

Therefore, HB1303 creates a Colorado Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act Commission — an impartial panel capable of evaluating the recommendations of the Colorado County Clerks Association.

However, HB1303 allocates two commission seats to the CCCA without requiring that quasi-public organization to disclose its outside sources of lobbying funds. The bill makes no reference to either ballot secrecy and/or election transparency and sunsets the commission in 2015.

Thus, the public policy questions remain whether HB 13-1303’s wide-ranging election law changes should be implemented before or — 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 and Gas Conservation Commission.

BILL HUGENBERG 

Grand Junction

Grand jury indictment is
tied to immigration issue

In a sweeping investigation by local and federal law enforcement with suspects moving between destinations such as Southern California and Atlanta, a grand jury indictment accuses 36 people of various roles in an alleged drug organization that was selling pounds of methamphetamine and cocaine in Mesa County and being supplied by a source in Mexico. This from the headlines of Thursday’s Daily Sentinel.

Yet Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall make no connection whatsoever to Mexican cartels having any influence on Colorado, if we are to take the babble they send in canned literature when one sends them messages on their own websites.

All they see is 12 million voters the minute we make illegal immigrants citizens. Why would we make illegal immigrants citizens? My ancestors came through Ellis Island and lived on reservations.

We have a process in this country to become a citizen, and if one has criminal convictions on one’s record that pretty much denies one the privilege of becoming a citizen, does it not?

So, instead we arm cartels with state-of-the-art weaponry, deny our citizens the right to the same protections, tax them higher to pay for welfare babies and then reward the illegal perpetrators with rights for committing crimes and offenses against the country they illegally entered?

Mexico doesn’t treat us that way. Why do we treat illegal immigrants that way?

To top it all off, when one does take the time to write an elected official, one gets a canned letter of condescending demeanor, telling one to visit their propaganda sites. Sign me: “From my cold, dead hands around the Constitution and Bill of Rights.”

RICHARD BRIGHT

Grand Junction



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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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