Voting bill provides needed protections

A bill introduced in the Colorado Legislature this week would require significant changes in Colorado’s election laws, making election procedures more uniform throughout the state and ensuring that every voter receives a mail ballot every election, even though he or she could still vote at regular vote centers.

Most controversial is a provision in House Bill 1303 that would allow same-day voter registration, even on Election Day.

The Daily Sentinel has generally opposed same-day registration because of the potential for voter fraud. However, Mesa County Clerk Sheila Reiner, who supports HB 1303, along with the Colorado County Clerks Association, makes a good argument that those objections may not be relevant any longer.

“The truth is, we have a form of it (same-day voter registration) now,” Reiner said Thursday.

Under current law, if someone shows up on Election Day and doesn’t appear as a registered voter, but claims he or she registered “with some dude outside of Walmart” or by any other means, that individual must be allowed to vote using a provisional ballot, Reiner said. If the voter can produce appropriate ID and attests residency, the ballot can be cast, she said.

The same verification process would occur under HB 1303, although people wouldn’t have to claim they tried to register.

“The thing that makes me feel better about same-day registration is that (under HB 1303) we would all be connected to a state database” so county clerks’ offices throughout Colorado could check immediately to see if someone is registered or has voted elsewhere, she said.

Or, as bill cosponsor Sen. Angela Giron of Pueblo told The Denver Post, “If anything, this will reduce voter fraud.”

Additionally, Reiner said, more frequent requirements in HB 1303 for convicted felons, people who have died and those who have changed addresses will help election voters verify who is allowed to vote in their jurisdictions.

Registering to vote at the polls on Election Day may become a relatively small problem, however. That’s because more and more, Coloradans are using mail ballots to cast their votes. In last year’s general election, approximately 80 percent of Mesa County voters used mail ballots, and barely 10 percent cast ballots on Election Day, said Reiner. That actually saves the county money, because each mail ballot costs the county about $4, compared to roughly $35 for the cost of polling-place ballots.

HB 1303 requires that all votersreceive mail ballots, which they can return by mail or leave at 24-hour drop-off locations. They may also cast ballots in person during early voting or on Election Day. It also ensures uniformity of voting procedures throughout the state and establishes a commission to review the changes and report to the Legislature on any problems.

Secretary of State Scott Gessler has voiced objections to the bill, and so have a number of Republican lawmakers. But, nearly all of the county clerks of both parties support it — in fact, they suggested most of the changes — and they say it will save money without compromising ballot integrity.

Those are reasons to view HB 1303 with cautious optimism, although we haven’t delved into the details of the 126-page bill.


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