Right out of last year’s HB1303 “voters be damned” playbook, on Monday, a party-line vote in the House State Affairs Committee rushed forward the bill to eliminate residency requirements in local elections. The bill also abolishes criminal penalties for tampering with the registration rolls or registering with fictitious names for such elections.
The hearing was a sham. The bureaucrats versus the people. Predictably, again, the people lost that round. Bureaucrats and lobbyists testified in favor of the bill, extolling its virtues of making their jobs easier—never mind the public policy implications. Shamelessly untruthful statements were made by the bureaucrats and lobbyists to close out the testimony with a process set up to give them the “last word”—never mind the facts.
The regular citizens all testified against the bill. The sole public servant exception was Wayne Williams, El Paso County Clerk, running for Secretary of State. Williams, an attorney, is the county clerk who conducts more elections for more voters than any clerk in the state. He efficiently exposed problem after problem with the bill citing chapter and verse. He spoke of groups of voters who will be disenfranchised by part of the bill’s scheme. His testimony was abruptly cut short by the Committee Chair. They didn’t have time to hear from an expert like Williams, on this 133 page bill, intended to “fix” the 104 page HB1303 bill of last year
Victor Head, Pueblo’s folk-hero plumber who led the Giron recall, now running for Clerk of Pueblo County, testified that the bill allows a compromised official to unilaterally fire election judges and remove press and authorized watchers from the election processing locations, without consequences. He testified on the essential role of watchers in attempting to keep the recall election clean. But the City Clerk of Aurora rebutted by claiming that officials always had such control, yet she failed to admit that the proponents had added bill language that any booted judges and watchers will now have “no legal recourse.” So the committee and bill sponsor Representative Carole Murray (R) rejected Head’s testimony and stepped harder on the accelerator to pass this dangerous bill.
Problem after problem raised by opponents was falsely “rebutted” by the lobbyists and bureaucrats as they made multiple misleading and disingenuous claims, but no rebuttal to their untruthful claims was permitted. No committee members objected to the false claims by the proponents.
Even the unrefuted basics are untenable, but likely to be passed on party-line votes:
–Abolishing minimum residency periods for voters in local elections.
–Abolishing all Secretary of State oversight and enforcement in local elections.
–Exempting local elections from certification and testing of voting equipment.
–Officially exempting mail ballots from signature verification in local elections, and reducing the strength of the voter affirmation of eligibility.
–Stripping voters of legal rights to challenge the fall 2013 elections that were flawed by poor 1303 implementation.
Following the rocket ship speed and path of its mother-bill HB1303, the bill is headed for a quick floor vote in the House before the voters protest this insulting bill that destroys any semblance of election integrity in local elections.
Citizens need to fight the lawmakers, bureaucrats and paid lobbyists on this bill. Ask Democrats to stop and listen to the people. Ask Republicans to study the bill enough to engage in a meaningful debate.
No citizen should tolerate this assault on the election system. But proponents of last year’s HB1303 learned the key to the destruction of election integrity, and few opponents seem prepared for the fight this year.
Fortunately, Senators Grantham and Lundberg will soon offer a common-sense alternative of merely delaying implementation of HB1303—a “time out”—until these problems can be analyzed and solutions proposed. Voters should insist that their legislators vote for this “time out” to stop the chaotic deterioration of our democratic process.
Marilyn Marks is the president of Citizen Center, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization focused on election integrity.