DENVER – Senate Democrats passed a bill to reform elections that Republicans argued will make Colorado vulnerable to fraudulent voters who could steal elections by casting illegal ballots. The measure would allow same-day voter registration without proof of identity – a reform that Democrats argued gives voters greater access to the ballot.
“We agree on a lot of things, we want to make sure people have the right to vote,” Sen. Angela Giron (D-Pueblo) told Republicans. “And we want to have the integrity of the election.”
“It turns us into a banana republic,” declared Sen. Greg Brophy (R-Wray). The bill “clearly creates a path for election fraud – for people to steal elections!”
After more than three hours of speeches for and against House Bill 1303, the measure passed Thursday on a 20 -15 vote. Because of a technical amendment, the bill will return to the House for final approval and then to Gov. John Hickenlooper to be signed into law.
Though Hickenlooper had hoped to receive measures with bipartisan support, HB 1303 did not receive a single Republican vote in the Senate and previously in the House.
The bill, titled the Voter Access and Modernized Election Act, is sponsored by Giron and Democrat Reps. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst of Longmont and Dan Pabon of Denver.
“The proper title for this bill is ‘Same-Day Voters’ Fraud Act,’” declared Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud).
Lundberg contended that the same-day registration opens Colorado elections to fraud, and even the ability to gain a ballot in a district where the voter intends to live could result in a large number of illegal ballots. That, he said, could easily taint the outcome of a tight race and once a ballot is cast, there is no way to revise the vote count.
The bill would replace polling precincts with voting centers, use all mail ballots and allow same-day registration. To qualify for registration, a person could provide a utility or cable bill with their name and address. The bill changes residency requirements from 29 to 22 days prior to an election.
Registered voters would be allowed to vote in a different county or district if they plan to move there a few days after the election.
“I want to remind you that it’s a technical bill written by county clerks,” said Giron. About 75 percent of the County Clerks Association members, she said, endorsed the bill.
“They’re the ones who know, and they’re to ones who are going to be held accountable every day when people come in to register and vote in county elections,” she said. “I trust that.”
El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Wayne Williams, who withdrew membership in the clerks association, is adamantly opposed to the bill. He told TCO that the measure is also opposed by Weld, Arapahoe and Douglas county clerks.
Though the bill’s proponents claim the bill will save more than $1 million in election costs, Williams said it will increase El Paso County’s tab by at least $695,000. But, the same-day voter registration is even more of a concern.
“There is no way to run a check through federal immigration or a felon database on election day,” said Williams. And the Colorado Secretary of State’s SCORE computer system is not immune to internet failure. In 2010, Denver voters stood for hours in freezing temperatures because of the system failed.
Brophy said it’s another example of Democrats ramming through an agenda in this legislative session regardless of what the majority of Coloradans want.
“In 2002, the people of Colorado already rejected this idea,” he said. “And now you are once again overriding the clear and stated will of the people… that goes against the democratic roots that we have here.”