Printed letters, May 2, 2013

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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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