DENVER – A bill introduced Monday would give Democrat and Republican lawmakers the opportunity to find solutions to the unintended consequences of The Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act that was rushed through the legislature and signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper.
“We want the chance for a bipartisan committee of lawmakers to really evaluate HB 1303, hear testimony and make recommendations for changes,” said state Sen. Kevin Grantham (R-Canon City).
Grantham, who plans to unveil the bill during a press conference at the state Capitol at 11:30 a.m., said the intent is to put HB 1303 on hiatus for two years while an interim committee of Democrat and Republican lawmakers assesses the act.
If passed, the bill would preserve the integrity of November elections and avoid the complaints and lawsuits filed in the wake of last year’s elections.
“This is not about politics, this is policy,” said state Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud), a cosponsor of the new bill. “This is to ensure fair and free elections and restore voters’ confidence” in elections.
Of particular concern were errors in ballots issued and cast in the Broomfield election, which outnumbered the passage of a ban on fracking by a mere 20 votes. Broomfield officials counted ballots cast by several ineligible voters but disenfranchised other eligible voters by not counting their ballots.
The same-day voter registration that does not require concrete identification requirements contributed to ineligible voters casting ballots in several counties and was sent to the district attorney and attorneys general offices for investigation.
Even if the voters were later deemed ineligible, their counted ballots impacted the election results because they cannot be detected and discounted later.
“There are so many flaws in HB 1303 that led to unintended consequences,” said House Assistant Minority Leader Libby Szabo (R-Arvada). “It’s disingenuous.”
“The right to vote is precious,” said Szabo. “Women and minorities fought hard for this right to vote. We want to ensure those rights.”
State Rep. Carole Murray (R-Castle Rock) said the problems with the new law are well documented. The mandated all-mail ballot election and same-day voter registration opens the door to fraud, whether accidentally or purposefully.
For example, same-day voter registration require eligibility verification through the Secretary of State’s SCORE system but that hasn’t been fully tested, Murray said. Added to that problem, she noted that several counties do not have Internet to access the SCORE system.
“I hated that law (HB 1303) and I still hate it,” declared Murray. “There are no checks and balances for residency requirements. What were they thinking?”
Proving the residency glitch that could lead to “gypsy” voters was Jon Caldara, president of the Independence Institute, who registered to vote in the recall election of ex-Senate President John Morse in Senate District 11 in September.
Caldara claimed his intent to reside in Colorado Springs and declared he was renting a room in a home owned by former state Rep. Mark Barker (R-Colorado Springs).
Caldara’s bold action sparked a complaint that was dismissed — he had not broken the law as written and did not actually vote for or against Morse’s recall or replacement candidate, Republican state Sen. Bernie Herpin.
The bill sponsored by Sens. Grantham and Lundberg and Reps. Szabo and Murray is the latest of five Republican measures intended to cure the ills of HB 1303.
House Bill 1043 sponsored by Rep. Amy Stephens of Colorado Springs and HB 1128 sponsored by Szabo are slated to be heard by the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.
Nicknamed “the killing committee,” that panel has defeated two reform measures including SB 079 sponsored by Sen. Ted Harvey of Highlands Ranch that challenged the elector eligibility or signature of a ballot cast by mail, and SB 071 sponsored by Lundberg that would have allowed voters to opt out of the all-mail ballot.
Like the sins of the father, HB 1164, dubbed son of HB 1303 is being rammed through the legislature.
HB 1164, which applies to local municipality, township, school district and special district elections, was touted as a bipartisan measure introduced by House Majority Leader Dickey Lee Hullinghorst (D-Longmont). Hullinghorst and recalled ex-Sen. Angela Giron (D-Pueblo) rammed through HB 1303 despite Republican objections.
Republican Rep. Murray and Sen. Ellen Roberts of Durango yanked their names as cosponsors of HB 1164 last week because the bill echoes the errors of HB 1303 and creates greater risks of illegally impacting the outcome of local contests.
A Denver Post editorial Sunday slammed HB 1164 and questioned whether it “will require a scandal before last-minute ‘intent’-based residency is seen by most lawmakers as a serious issue… it’s rushed handling is a disservice to informed lawmaking.”