DENVER — Gov. John Hickenlooper’s decision Tuesday to sign a hotly contested elections bill was roundly condemned by conservatives, with one notable exception.
Jon Caldara said he was “thrilled” with the governor and Democratic state legislators for passing House Bill 14-1164 despite Republican concerns about voter fraud, saying the newly signed measure “has empowered me now to vote in any one of the 3,400 local-government and special-district elections in our state.”
“I want to personally thank the state legislature and our governor for massively expanding my voting rights to vote anywhere and basically any time in Colorado,” said Caldara, president of the free-market Independence Institute.
He wasn’t exactly joking. Caldara threw a spotlight on criticism of H.B. 13-1303, last year’s sweeping election reform law, by casting a blank ballot in the Sept. 10 recall election in Colorado Springs, even though he lives in Boulder.
Republicans and other critics say the law allows voters to cast ballots outside their home districts merely by saying they intend to move to that district, a claim disputed by Democrats.
This year’s elections bill extends the changes made last year to non-partisan local and special-district elections, creating what Democrats praised as a uniform election system but what Republicans decried as more opportunities for voters to game elections by switching districts on Election Day.
Last year’s election law ushered in all-mail balloting and same-day voter registration, and eliminated the requirement to live in a precinct before participating in elections. Both bills were approved on party-line votes with no Republican support.
“It’s obvious that this bill will enhance opportunities for voter fraud. Our elections expert who looked at it said she doesn’t even think it’s workable,” said state Sen. Greg Brophy (R-Wray).
He described the bill as “another horribly written, hyper-partisan bill that should have earned a veto,” and criticized Hickenlooper for refusing to challenge the liberal state legislature.
“I’m really disappointed but I’m not surprised,” said Brophy. “It’s the same as last year. He doesn’t have the courage to veto bills that need to be vetoed.”
Secretary of State Scott Gessler said last year’s “partisan rewrite of our state’s election law . . . created confusion and undermined election integrity,” citing the uproar over the recount on ballots cast in November on the Broomfield fracking moratorium.
“As the legislature attempted to fix these problems during this session, I wish it had slowed down and worked to reach consensus with all the relevant stakeholders. Instead, legislators hit the gas and rushed through another flawed bill,” said Gessler in a statement. “And Gov. Hickenlooper quickly signed it.”
Hickenlooper signed the bill into law Tuesday without fanfare or an accompanying statement, but House Majority Leader Dickie Lee Hullinghorst said quick action was needed to give local elections officials time to prepare for the next round of elections.
“I think the bill is very workable for everybody – it will make elections easier and less expensive for local governments and more convenient for voters,” Hullinghorst told Fox31.
Meanwhile, Caldara says he hasn’t decided yet whether to try and vote outside Boulder again. Democrats called for Caldara to be prosecuted for last year’s “stunt,” but the Attorney General’s office declined to press charges, saying there was not enough evidence.
While he’s familiar with the terms “gypsy voter” and “vagabond voter,” Caldara says he prefers to be described as a “voting tourist.”
“There are so many wonderful places to intend to live in Colorado,” said Caldara. “I’m now thinking about where I might want to intend to live in the future.”