Printed letters, May 2, 2013

It’s probably just business as usual when the controlling political party in Colorado introduces and expects passage of a 128-page bill, released late in the session after months of secret drafting.

Might citizens be shocked and dismayed to learn that this bill makes dramatic changes to the way we elect our officials? Will we be surprised to hear that a professional association of county election officials is a primary supporter of the bill?

Will citizens blindly believe the reassuring promotion of the ACLU, Common Cause, America Votes and League of Women Voters? Should citizens trust that these lobbying organizations have fully vetted House Bill 1303 and will protect citizens from injurious side effects?

Many people will naturally trust these nonprofits to give responsible advice in the “public interest.” Others will trust the incessantly, self-servingly reassuring county clerks, two-thirds of whom are Republicans. Some will trust the Democratic Party leadership.

I’m genuinely sorry to admit it would be a mistake to trust any of them, just as it would be a mistake to blindly trust the result of an election. As an experienced Democratic Party activist, I find myself blowing the whistle on an undemocratic process — rushing passage of a bill containing too many defects. The Democratic legislative pressure to see the bill enacted has overwhelmed patient consideration of merit or public benefit.

Election integrity comes from an opportunity and reality of citizens independently verifying the accuracy of elections — eligibility, reports, recounts etc. Colorado’s Democrats and election officials have teamed up to separate citizens from their election process and aggregate power in the hands of election officials whom we are apparently expected to trust. I’m depending on a governor’s nonpartisan veto.

HARVIE BRANSCOMB

Board Member, Colorado Voter Group

Carbondale

Park status would impact 
residents’ quality of life

I agree with the Huffakers’ April 23 letter to the editor about a name change for Colorado National Monument.

Quality of life is very important to my husband and me, as Redlands residents, as well as to the thousands of others living out here.

We are the citizens who would be most impacted by the proposed name change from monument to park.

Changing the name to park doesn’t necessarily bring in more tourists, as has been noted at Sand Dunes and Black Canyon Parks.

Tourism should never be relied upon as a sure source of income for an area, because lean years do happen.

Also, it doesn’t produce good-paying jobs, since most of the employment would be service-related. Some of the jobs would be part-time and seasonal.

A dirty little secret about park status is land grabbing, and little is said about it in the media and elsewhere.

But it does happen. Private property rights are meaningless to the feds, and Glade Park and the Redlands would be prime targets for “buffer zones.”

The impact on the land from enticing more people to visit (if that actually happens) should be of great concern to our local environmentalists.

People habitually “love the land to death.” Our beautiful monument could physically change and not for the better.

It really isn’t big enough for park designation, and the roads are too narrow.

I certainly hope Sen. Mark Udall and Rep. Scott Tipton think twice about changing the monument’s name and also our way of life.

SUE BENJAMIN

Grand Junction

Marketplace Fairness Act would hurt small business

The Marketplace Fairness Act seeks to force businesses to collect sales tax in more than 20 states across the country. This would encompass more than 9,646 tax jurisdictions and an untold number of different rates. The bill places the compliance burden on small business.

In order to comply with the law at the point of the original sale, companies will be forced to either purchase a new program or to create major and costly updates to the existing programming. Initial estimates place the cost of doing this anywhere from tens of thousands of dollars to much more than $100,000, depending on the complexity involved.

The issue is further complicated in that even if businesses were to assemble a list of zip codes and tax rates, many areas have two different tax rates within the same zip code, as some areas fall within city limits and others outside.

After accepting a sale online, the sale has to be entered into the accounting system of choice by the small business. At present, products used by small business such as Quickbooks or Peachtree do not offer the necessary features. Businesses will be forced to upgrade to expensive enterprise software.

Another dirty little secret of the bill is that small, brick-and-mortar businesses that occasionally ship out of state will be forced to comply with the regulations, as well. From building-material dealers to agricultural goods suppliers, this bill could have far-reaching and unintended consequences.

While large retailers such as Home Depot, Amazon and Wal-Mart say it is about “fairness” to the small retail store, the truth is it makes it more difficult for small business to compete.

JUSTIN KRAUSS

Grand Junction

Newcomer yet to be convinced on ‘controlled burn’ benefits

Could someone explain why “controlled burns” are allowed and what they accomplish? My house is full of smoke when I should be enjoying the ability to open windows/doors during the beautiful spring weather. Breathing seems optional with all this smoke permeating the valley.

I have not been here for long. My neighbors have given me several reasons, none of which seem plausible.

JANETTE M. JOHNSTON

Fruita



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Coloradans – and particularly our legislators – should be special heed to Harvey Branscomb’s warnings about the pitfalls inherent in HB 13-1303.

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.

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” nor restores previously lost transparency, and “sunsets” in 2015.

However, 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). 

While Colorado’s County Clerks may well be “experts” as to how our elections have been conducted in the past, how they are conducting them now, and how the CCCA wants to conduct them in the future, their purported expertise as to how truly democratic secret elections ought best to be conducted remains dubiously constrained by their own
self-interest as elected partisan officials.

The ultimate goal should be to have all voted ballots – impenetrably anonymous as required by our Constitution – posted on the internet for all to see before any election is officially certified.

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