State’s lax voter-registration law could create new form of tourism
The other day I was trying to remember when it was that we began to stop taking voter integrity seriously. We take the number of votes seriously — we just don’t seem interested in who casts them and if they should.
Nationally, it probably started happening during the 2000 presidential election recounts in Florida and their aftermath. The balloon went up when — shockingly — George W. Bush actually won the popular count in Florida over Al Gore, despite efforts to misdirect the military overseas vote.
To the losing side of that argument, it became apparent that votes were very important, but keeping track of who is doing the voting and their status in connection with that right — unimportant.
In Colorado, the slide in voter integrity gathered momentum during the 2013 legislative session. That’s when the process of establishing who you are and stepping into a voting booth to cast your ballot gave way to a “honk if you want Candidate A” mentality.
Let’s face it, Colorado has become something of a joke in a lot of policy areas. If you want to talk about the wheels coming off the Edsel of state government, ours is up on blocks in the driveway with a raccoon living in the backseat.
What brings this rather frequent lament about voting back into focus is the curious and terrible case of Jon Caldara.
Caldara is the head of the Independence Institute in Golden, which is a conservative organization whose very mention is enough to cause “progressive” LoDo hipsters to spill their artisan-brewed ale in trembling rage.
What Caldara did was attempt to test the boundaries of Colorado’s new softer and snugglier voting requirements.
You see, the voting issue just isn’t about who you are; it’s about where you are. Apparently, under the new law, intention trumps presence.
What this means is that a firm definition of where you’re living is replaced under the new law with the notion that where you intend to live is enough to establish residency for voting.
Caldara, who lives in Boulder, tested this theory by generating a week-to-week lease off the Internet for a room in a friend’s house located in the recalled-but-not-lamented state Sen. John Morse’s district in Colorado Springs.
Caldara said he did this to show the problems with last year’s House Bill 1303, which changed the idea that residency was where you were located to where you intended to be.
Caldara argued that the law allowed him to be in Colorado Springs on a week-to-week basis even though he had been living for years in Boulder and still maintained a home there.
After he established week-to-week residency, he changed his registration to El Paso County and received a ballot, although he did not use it or mark it for a vote.
This month, it was determined by the Colorado Attorney General’s office that Caldara couldn’t be prosecuted for voting in Colorado Springs because of ambiguity in state law. This seemingly opens up yet another tourist trade in Colorado, to include out-of-state narco tourists and in-state voter tourists.
Caldara believes Colorado voting has degenerated to the point where we’re handing out voter registration cards like grocery coupons. But that’s not true. Usually one has to take the trouble to cut the coupon out of the newspaper.
In Colorado, voter registration cards are passed out on street corners with the same zeal Hare Krishnas used to force flowers into your hands at airports.
The biggest single problem here is Colorado’s new same-day registration, which allows individuals to register to vote the same day that they actually vote. Then their ballots are placed into the mix for consideration and must be challenged later on.
Catching problems after the fact is almost impossible when you consider that Colorado is racing to become an all mail-in ballot state. We now treat what used to be one of the most valuable rights of the citizen, one which women and minorities fought so strongly to have, like a supermarket sweepstakes.
Hopefully, the Legislature will act to correct this fiasco to avoid scads of activists who just “intend” to live in a district on the first Tuesday in November.
Rick Wagner writes more on politics at his blog, the War on Wrong.