Guest Commentary: Focus on Fixing Voter Data, Not Partisan “Reforms”

December 19, 2012

McNULTY: We owe it to ourselves to make sure that simple protections are employed to enhance the integrity of our elections (Li Tsin Soon Image)

A couple of weeks before this past Election Day I was picking up a bottle of NyQuil at Target.  The clerk asked for my driver’s license to complete the purchase.  Being tired and sick I quipped and asked her if my Xcel bill would suffice.  She wasn’t amused.  I scanned my driver’s license and was off to a better night’s sleep without the coughing and sneezing…

Truth is, I don’t like showing my photo I.D. to buy cough syrup, it’s an inconvenience, but I offered my I.D. because, as a state, we decided that requiring I.D. would deter lawbreakers.  And yet, whenever anyone gives word to the thought of employing honest tools aimed at protecting voting integrity, the backlash from the liberal left is immediate, unfair and ultimately, motivated by their own political self interests.

As anyone who has walked precincts can attest, public voter rolls are populated with voter information that is woefully inaccurate.  The bad information isn’t the fault of state or local elections officials, they’re required by state law to keep bad data in the voter file.  As voters move around and out of our state, the public voter rolls become less and less accurate.  As our system has moved away from neighborhood style precinct based voting and toward mail ballots, the number of ballots provided to the wrong people has increased.

A friend of mine regularly receives election mail from his county clerk addressed to his ex-wife.  His “ex” moved from that address in 2009.  And yes, she’s registered to vote in another state and, yes, she’s still listed as “inactive” in Colorado.  Are we to foolishly assume that there aren’t thousands of examples like this throughout Colorado? Likewise, it is hardly possible to tell how many ballots are unknowingly provided to the wrong voter, but we know it happens.

Make no mistake about it – election reform is code for “I want to give my team an unfair advantage.”

Team Obama pressed hard in the 2011 and 2012 state legislative sessions to require all counties to mail ballots to active and inactive voters.  Perhaps it was some sort of civic obligation that the Democrats popped this point whenever they thought they had leverage to get it done, right?  Probably not…  Legislative Democrats pressed so hard because they thought that they had an advantage with more ballots on the street to go out and get.  And they were probably right.

Attempts to skew elections masquerading as election reform are nothing new and we don’t need to allow the political winds in Washington D.C. or our state Capitol to allow Republicans or Democrats to build advantages for themselves into the system.

Our county clerks have a tough job.  We demand fair and open elections and, at the same time, we don’t give them the ability to do so.  In fact, we make it harder for them to have fair and open elections because they are required to house elections data that isn’t accurate!

Now, there is talk by some Democrats of requiring clerks to implement same day voter registration.  Same day voter registration eliminates any opportunity for elections officials to maintain a fair and open election.  And yes, it is well known in campaign circles that same day voter registration benefits Democratic candidates.  We ought to help county clerks fix the current data problem before creating another for them.

Fair and open elections really come down to two things.  First, that our voter rolls are populated only with those Coloradans who are legally able to vote in our elections, and two, that, if we are to mail ballots, that those ballots be mailed only to those people who are legally entitled to cast that ballot.  Republicans and Democrats will employ example after example and anecdote after anecdote to prove their side right and the other side wrong.  Truth is, these examples and anecdotes don’t really matter.

We can create an environment where elections are fair and open and we owe it to ourselves to make sure that simple protections are employed to enhance the integrity of our elections in Colorado.

Elections matter and we must not accept or tolerate any effort designed to stop a Coloradan who is legally entitled to vote from casting his or her ballot.  It is equally true that, elections matter and anyone who is defrauding the system by casting an illegal ballot diminishes the ballot that I cast along with the millions of others who do the same.

Rep. Frank McNulty currently serves as Speaker of the Colorado House for the 68th General Assembly.  He represents Highlands Ranch, Colorado.

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