DENVER — Democrats don’t often complain about voter fraud, but the prospect of outside voters taking advantage of an apparent loophole in Colorado’s new election law to participate in the legislative recalls has the bill’s sponsor crying foul.
State Rep. Dan Pabon (D-Denver), who sponsored the Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act, said Wednesday that those who say the law allows so-called “gypsy voters” are essentially advocating election fraud.
“I think what they’re doing is advertising wholesale voter fraud and asking folks to basically break the law,” Pabon told the Colorado Observer.
His remarks came shortly after the Independence Institute posted a website, called Bring In the Vote, saying that voters who don’t live in either of the recall districts may legally cast ballots under the new elections law, also known as House Bill 1303.
Institute president Jon Caldara announced Thursday that he plans to vote in the recall of Senate President John Morse (D-Colorado Springs). Caldara is a longtime Boulder resident, but said in his announcement that the law allows him to vote in the recall, as long as he declares his intent to live in the district.
“It is my belief that this extremely sloppy new election law was designed to legally move voters into districts where their vote is most useful,” said Caldara. “I will show how this dangerous new law works by easily and legally voting in the John Morse recall election.”
Asked about Pabon’s comments, Caldara accused the Democrat of “attempting to suppress the vote” with his warning about fraudulent ballot-casting.
“I take it very seriously when people say this is voter fraud,” said Caldara. “What they [Democrats] are doing is engaging in voter suppression. Shame on Dan Pabon for trying to scare people from exercising their voting rights.”
Early voting has begun in the Sept. 10 recall elections of Morse and state Sen. Angela Giron (D-Pueblo) stemming from their votes in favor of gun-control legislation.
Pabon pointed out that the new law retains the section in the previous election law requiring voters to declare their intent to live in a district, even if they hadn’t actually moved there.
“Many of the provisions that 1303 codified were in existing law with respect to residency requirements, intent to permanently reside in an area. We didn’t change that in 1303,” said Pabon. “The intent test didn’t change. We did not change that part of the law.”
What did change was the section requiring would-be voters to register 29 days before an election, replaced by same-day registration. The 29-day provision allowed those who intended to move to a district before Election Day to register. Their relocations could then be confirmed before actual voting took place.
In crafting the new law, Democrats eliminated the advance registration window without removing or amending the intent provision, which critics say permits otherwise eligible voters to show up on Election Day and declare their intent to move to a new district.
Those would-be voters must also have an address, which could be a hotel or a homeless shelter. If they never actually move to the new district, critics say it’s probably not a crime, given that all they have to provide is their present intent, not proof of later relocation.
That’s not how Pabon sees it. “I think it’s a bit of a red herring to throw up these new tactics in saying, ‘This is what 1303 brought you,’ when in reality that’s not true,” he said. “A lot of the suggestions would be crimes, criminal activity. They’re advocating criminal activity. I think they’ve taken their tactics a step too far.”
Ironically, the Voter Access law, signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper in May 10, was approved by the state legislature with no votes from Republicans, who said it could facilitate voter fraud.
“Though we may disagree on issues and candidates, I hope we all will agree that all Coloradans should be fully informed of their new voting rights and how to exercise them,” said Caldara in his statement.