Politics

Republicans are proposing big changes to Colorado elections, including cuts to email and personal voting

A group of Republican state lawmakers introduced a raft of bills to reshape the gold standard election processes in Colorado, including one that would require voters to request a ballot through the mail rather than receiving one automatically and require the counting of votes until Election Day ends.

None of the proposals will likely win approval in the House and Senate, which are controlled by the Democrats. But it comes against the backdrop of former President Donald Trump’s false claims that he won the 2020 election. The presidential election has never been so close in Colorado, which since 2013 has mailed ballot papers to all active voters and last year became a model for other states seeking to expand voting by mail. .

Democrats say the legislation is an attempt to dismantle a system that has expanded access to the vote, and that Republicans are submitting bills as a match for their base.

Secretary of State Gina Griswold, a Democrat, said Republican sponsors of election-related bills had not contacted her office before they were submitted.

“I really think that these laws are aimed at depriving and intimidating voters,” she said. “By spreading this misinformation through these bills, I believe that Republican lawmakers are trying to further degrade our democracy.”

Republican lawmakers disagree.

“It’s about not allowing the best – and Colorado has a good electoral system – to be the enemy of the great,” the state senator said. Paul Lundin, a Republican for the memorial, introduces the bill that would make the most dramatic amendments. “We should not be content with what we have achieved … on something as important as democracy.”

The bills from Lundin and other Colorado Republicans are similar to those proposed by Republicans in state legislatures across the country in the aftermath of the divisive 2020 presidential election. many of The proposals In other states he will limit mail-in voting, which Trump attacked before voting began. The former president later criticized the signatures on the postal ballot papers, the accuracy of the voter registration lists, and so on, Refused to admit losing to Democrat Joe Biden.

Lundin’s legislation, Senate Bill 7, would fundamentally reshape the voting process in Colorado by reversing the expansion in mail voting.

Currently, Colorado sends a ballot card by mail to every active registered voter, who can return it at dropbox, or via mail. They can also vote in person during the two weeks prior to Election Day.

Senate Bill 7 Voters will be required to request mail polls and limit in-person voting to Election Day and the previous six days. It would also require county clerks to count all votes on Election Day, allowing only five hours after polling closed to complete the count. The Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee will consider the measure on Tuesday afternoon.

Only 6% of voters cast their ballots in the general election in November, according to Colorado Secretary of State’s Office, Colorado has the second-highest voter turnout in the country.

Lundin refused to discuss details of the proposal or explain why his bill sought to limit the mail-order voting system that had been in place for several years. Instead, he said, the purpose of the bill was to “initiate a conversation.”

Senate Majority Leader Steve Feinberg, a Democrat from Boulder who has worked for a long time on election and voter outreach issues, described the list of legislation as a political move by Republicans.

“My sense is that they know it is bad policy, and they know it will not pass, but it is a statement,” Feinberg said, adding that the conversation that Lundin wanted to launch “perpetuates a lie.”

“It’s a false assumption that there are rampant frauds and we have to tighten restrictions, even if that means depriving people of the right to vote,” Veinberg said.

County employees may have objections, too. Lundin will bill It costs the state Estimated at $ 1 million in fiscal year 2022-23, it would cost small counties a minimum of $ 37,000 per county and large up to $ 1.5 million, according to a financial analysis conducted by a nonpartisan legislative staff.

“I think our folks will have some interesting comments on this bill,” said Matt Crane, executive director of the Colorado County Clerks Association. Crane, a Republican, is a writer and former registrar in Arapahoe County.

The new costs for the provinces will come from mailing notices to voters, adding more polling places and hiring more staff to manage mailed ballot requests and count votes by Election Day.

Crane said the election results were never completed and were not finalized on election day, adding that the assembly had not yet taken a position on the legislation. “This perception was not a reality.”

to me A recent report From the R Street Free Market Research Center argues against efforts to curb voting by mail.

“We see no evidence from the election that voting by mail was any kind of problem,” said Stephen Greenhout, director of the Western District at R Street. “The Republicans did a good job (in 2020). One Republican in particular hasn’t done well.”

Tami Patrick, senior election advisor at the Democracy Fund, said Colorado is a model for other states on how to conduct “safe, secure, and accessible elections by mail voting.”

“At this moment, the fact that (some) in Colorado are now saying they need to change is very exciting,” said Patrick. “If this had been a problem with their system, these changes would have been introduced years ago, not just at this moment when a particular candidate did not win.”

Colorado Senator James Coleman, left (D-33rd Dist.), Chats with minority Senators Whip Paul Lundeen (R-9th Dist.), On the Senate floor during the first day of Colorado’s 73rd Legislature in Colorado’s Capitol Building In Denver Wednesday, Jan.13, 2021 (Andy Colwell, exclusive for The Colorado Sun)

The Lundin bill is a far cry from the only legislative changes Republicans are seeking to make in Colorado’s electoral processes.

House of Representatives 1086, Introduced by Rep. Stephanie Lack, a Republican in Penrose first year, requires voters to appear in person and provide proof of citizenship in order to vote if the documents are not already on file.

State and federal law already requires citizenship to vote. According to numerous studies, the vote by non-citizens is “extremely rare.” Collected by the Brennan Center.

Former Secretary of State Scott Gessler, a Republican, said in 2011 that he suspected that thousands of non-citizens were registered to vote and that more than 4,000 had cast their ballots illegally in Colorado. that Investigation by his office It found just a fraction – 35 people – cast their ballots, or 0.001% of all registered voters in the state.

Griswold said federal courts have struck down such laws in the past.

Other election bills proposed by Republicans are more technical. They include:

  • House of Representatives 1053This would allow any registered voter, not just a candidate or political party, to request a recount. The applicant must cover the cost of re-screening.
  • Bell House 1088This may require an annual review of the voter registration lists.
  • Senate Bill 10This requires witness assistance for voters who are unable to sign their ballot papers to live in the same district as the voter.

Griswold said her office would support a separate bill, which has not yet been submitted, to make minor changes to the election law. She said her office is working with county clerks and others on the procedure that Feinberg will sponsor.

The Griswold 2022 re-election campaign sent a fundraising email Thursday quoting Lundin’s proposal. “The bill will reduce this early voting and restrict access to ballot papers through the mail – hallmarks of a better election system in Colorado,” the email said.

Republicans, in a repeat of a one-day hearing on election integrity in December, failed to provide substantial evidence of widespread fraud. They also say that Colorado’s election system is robust and that their bills are not related to Trump’s loss. Instead, their messages focus on the idea that lawmakers should simply reduce the likelihood of fraud, even if it doesn’t prove to be a major problem.

You can’t go ahead by looking in your rearview mirror, said Lundin, who has said he wants to start a conversation beyond Trump or the 2020 election.

Griswold was also targeted for what he described as failing to provide any suggestions or ideas on how to make improvements to the state’s election processes. Griswold did not appear in person at the December session, however Make a statement And a written response to questions from lawmakers.

Rep. Dave Williams, a Republican from Colorado Springs, supports the Lundin bill.

“I don’t agree with the secretary of state that this would deprive the electorate of the right to vote,” said Williams. “There is a high potential for fraud when we mail ballot papers when the voter lists have not been completely cleaned.”

But Democrats said there was not much to fix. Griswold said that the state’s voter rolls are updated daily with information from other government agencies, and are checked monthly against the Social Security death record. “Our voter lists are among the cleanest in the country,” she said.

Williams, who is sponsoring the recount bill, said his legislation targets issues that should not be considered partisan, an argument echoed by other Republican lawmakers.

Senior Attorney General Andy Biko, a Republican from Colorado Springs, is requesting a bill that would require annual audits of voter rolls.

“This is confirmation of the measures that are already in place,” Pico said. “I think the review is appropriate regardless of what you think happened in November.”

Patrick, of the Democracy Fund, said long-term policy change without evidence of a problem is reactionary and can harm the public’s understanding of electoral processes when it comes time to participate.

“I think part of the challenge when we talk about access and security trade-offs comes from a previously assumed risk of unsupported fraud,” he said.

“So let’s assume beforehand that something is happening with such an infinitesimal amount … well, the back side of this pendulum will negatively affect many more people. [those who] I faced any kind of fraudulent activity. ”

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