The Colorado Senate passed a bill Thursday that greatly expands voting rights to Colorado citizens. The bill now goes to the House for concurrence on technical amendments. The House passed the bill last month. The governor is expected to sign the legislation.
Colorado is bucking a trend by making voting and registration easier. Since the 2012 election, 31 states controlled by Republicans have acted on, or are considering, 80 bills that will make it harder to register and vote.
The “Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act” passed the Senate 20-15. Every Democrat voted for the bill and every Republican voted no. If there were an option to vote “hell no” Republicans would have voted that way. The bill already passed the House on a party-line vote last month. National Republican blogs are already using it as a motivational tool, and it has not yet been signed into law.
The bill is an overhaul of Colorado’s voting laws. It was written by a bi-partisan group of County Clerks who, under Colorado law, conduct the elections in the counties.
The bill implements same-day registration and voting. It requires clerks to automatically send mail-in ballots to every voter. It also creates a real-time statewide voter database to prevent voter fraud. The bill should be a national model for other states to streamline their voting procedures in the digital age.
Republicans fought the measure in both Houses asserting it would open the door for voter fraud. Colorado’s Republican Secretary of State Gessler, who tried to purge thousands of voters from the polls last year, also fought the measure on the grounds of widespread fraud. Of the 4,000 voters Gessler tried to purge, only 4 ended up being questionable.
The claims of voter fraud seem to be fabricated or exaggerated by Republicans. Sen. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo, the bill’s sponsor, said during Thursday’s debate that 11 other states have passed same-day registration, and in Colorado only 16 voter-fraud cases have been filed in a decade from out of roughly 12 million ballots cast.
Colorado already has mail voting and there have been almost no proven cases of fraud. The only difference is that previously a voter had to elect to receive a mail in ballot. This law will require that one be sent to all voters. If they choose not to mail it in or forget, there will still be voting centers for voting the old fashioned way.
The Colorado County Clerks Association, made up of Republicans and Democrats, issued a “fact sheet” Thursday, as the Denver Post reported, noting Denver had registered only 487 voters without a driver’s license or Social Security number since 2008 out of 354,519 registered voters in Denver. Boulder registered only 123 out of 197,382 registrations, according to the association.
Despite Republican opposition in the legislature, Colorado’s former Republican Secretary of State Donetta supported the bill. County clerks said switching to mail will mean buying less equipment to operate and maintain for an ever-shrinking number of people who still vote in person. That could save millions of dollars in some county over a longer period of time. Denver expects to save a total of about $730,000 in next year’s general election alone, director of elections Amber McReyholds said when the bill was passed by the House last month.
Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, said the standard record checks for voter registration haven’t changed. Technology, however, allows those checks to occur instantly, so the 29-day registration deadline is an anachronism.
Colorado continues to lead the way when it comes to legislation. Voters legalized recreational marijuana last November. The legislature passed a Civil Unions bill which went into effect May 1. Colorado also passed a comprehensive package of gun violence legislation. It also voted to extend the renewable energy standard to rural utilities which will boost Colorado’s solar and wind energy industries.
Voting is the most fundamental right we have and Colorado’s legislation should be a model for all states.
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