April 18, 2013

Sweeping Colorado elections bill clears first hurdle before House committee

 

Colorado could change the way America votes, but first the Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act has to make its way through the Colorado statehouse. And that’s going to be a tall order. The ground-breaking proposal would send mail ballots to every voter, allow Election Day registration and put all the counties on a real-time statewide database that supporters say would weed out cheaters who try to vote twice.

The bill cleared its first legislative hurdle Monday evening when it passed the House’s State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee by a 7-4 party line vote, after more than seven and a half hours of testimony from dozens of public officials and otherwise private individuals on each side. it now moves to the House appropriations committee.

Opponents say the change isn’t needed for a state with strong voter participation, while it increases the chances of voter fraud. Same-day registration won’t provide enough time to weed out cheaters, say Republicans aligned against the bill, including Secretary of State Scott Gessler.

Those promoting the changes said the bill is uniquely Colorado, and the state could take the lead nationally on making elections more convenient to voters. They are confident other states will follow — because voters like mail voting (74 percent in Colorado last November), while preserving in-person voting at a few early voting centers, and, eventually, saving millions of dollars for counties.

“We’ve managed to, I believe, put together a bill that I think is a model for the nation,” Rep. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, one of the bill’s sponsors, told The Denver Post editorial board before Monday afternoon’s hearing.

Garett Reppenhagen of Colorado Springs, the Rocky Mountain West coordinator for the Vet Voice Foundation, said service members need as many options to register and vote as possible. He said military members fight for the right to vote, and increasing access is an important goal.

“if you vote for this bill you will be honoring the service of those who put on the uniform and made the decision to serve,” he told the committee.

 

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