DENVER—Let’s say you find someone else’s mail-in ballot and decide to use it to vote in person in the Nov. 5 election. The problem is, you don’t have any identification that matches the name on the ballot.
But what if the ballot itself counted as identification? As far as Colorado Common Cause is concerned, it does.
“We believe that the database of the Secretary of State would be a government document and therefore can’t be excluded compared to any other government document if it meets the definition with the name, address and the definition of current,” said Elena Nunez, executive director of Colorado Common Cause.
Nunez was overruled by Secretary of State Scott Gessler, who said ballots cannot be used as identification in his Oct. 9 rulemaking on the Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act, the state’s sweeping new election law.
Even so, expect the issue to resurface at the state legislature in 2014. In her Oct. 1 testimony before the rulemaking panel, Nunez said the question of whether a ballot should qualify as identification should be properly addressed by the legislature.
“The secretary does not have an authority to pick and choose which documents that otherwise meet these requirements and are current should be accepted as valid for voting purposes,” said Nunez. “We would urge the secretary to reject this rule, and if it’s an appropriate policy conversation, that would be one for the legislature to have.”
All voters who cast ballots in person must provide identification, which may include “a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that shows the name and address of the elector,” according to the Secretary of State’s website.
Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert noted at the hearing that the information on the mail-in ballot is created by the office’s SCORE database, arguing, “We’re not passing a rule except as it pertains to our data.”
She asked Nunez, “So it would be your position that you could use a mail ballot as I.D.? So you could take that mail ballot and you could show up at the polls and use it as an I.D. and circumvent any signature requirement?”
Responded Nunez, “Under the definition of government document, if it met the definition again with the name, address and showing that it was current, you could.”
“Again, it may be that this is a policy conversation that would be appropriate for the legislature to have, but to exclude certain government documents from the definition through rule we believe is inappropriate,” said Nunez.
The debate took on fresh relevance last week after Complete Colorado posted a video report showing mail-in ballots orphaned or thrown away in apartment-building mailrooms, creating opportunities for voter fraud.
“It’s just interesting that part of our all-mail ballot system now includes this: If you seek out apartment complexes that are large enough to have mail centers this big, you’re sure to cross a few misdelivered or unwanted ballots,” said Todd Shepherd, editor of Complete Colorado, in the Oct. 18 report.
The Nov. 5 election marks the first statewide balloting under the new election law, approved in May, which ushers in all-mail elections and same-day voter registration. Residents may register to vote and cast ballots on Election Day at Voter Service Centers, which replace polling places.