COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., August 4, 2013 — According to Colorado’s new election law, there is effectively no residency requirement to vote in any specific jurisdiction. As long as voters don’t vote more than once, they can pretty much vote wherever they want. This is just one of the “features” of the new election law passed in May at the end of the legislative session and signed into law by Governor John Hickenlooper on May 10.
The bill was sponsored by Angela Giron, the same Giron being recalled in Pueblo for ignoring the wishes of her constituents. Now she has written an election law that may prevent them from recalling her.
Officially titled the “Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act,” the 128-page bill completely rewrites Colorado election law. While the nation’s attention was focused on the presidential debates in October 2012, Giron called a press conference to announce her intention to rewrite the law. According to sources who tried to monitor the process, the new law was drafted in secret from around the end of 2012 until April 2013, when the completed draft was released.
At the time, the recall petition drives for her and Senators Morse and Hudak were well under way.
When hearings were held on the bill, opponents filled the room. They were given one minute each to speak. No amendments were allowed. The entire bill was passed exactly as drafted, typos and all. Under Senate President John Morse, this procedure has become all too common.
Only Democrats were involved in drafting the law. Secretary of State Scott Gessler and his entire office were excluded. Critical to the process was the Colorado County Clerks Association, led by executive director Donetta Davidson, a former secretary of state. Local advocates Colorado Common Cause, Colorado Civic Engagement Table, AFSCME, and America Votes — all liberal organizations — worked to advance the bill.
The County Clerks Association supported the bill because it gives them more control over elections. Support was bipartisan; the clerks maintain a wall of secrecy over who actually favored the bill.
Proponents describe the bill as simplifying election law and making it less costly. It does simplify the law in some respects, but it does so at the cost of citizen involvement in the voting process.
Republicans were not helpful in opposing the radical rewriting of Colorado election law. Their main objection was same day voter registration, rejected by popular vote in 2002 by a margin of 60-40 percent when it was last put before the people.
That is certainly worth objecting to, especially as the law essentially eliminates the residency requirement and does not include photo identification. Anyone can walk into any Voter Service Center at any time during election season — it would be passé to call it “election day” any more — and cast a ballot.
As long as you’ve lived somewhere in Colorado for the past 22 days — even if you don’t actually live in the district — there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to cast a ballot, said Douglas County Clerk and Recorder Jack Arrowsmith.
Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder Gilbert Ortiz said that voters must show that they reside in the district in which they vote. “If they say, ‘I still want to vote,’ we give them a provisional ballot and allow them to vote, but then we review it after the election and if they didn’t live in the district on Election Day, we don’t count their ballot,” said Ortiz.
But Ortiz’ comments refer to then-current election law. The new law eliminates provisional ballots. The implications are not yet fully clear, as the Secretary of State’s office has not had time to finalize the rules that will apply under the new law. Everyone assumed that the first election under the new law would be November 5, 2013.
Everyone, that is, except perhaps Angela Giron, who also deleted a provision in current law that recall elections could not be mail-in elections, but rather had to be held in person.
As election officials scramble to figure out how to apply the new law, one thing is certain: The citizens of Colorado have lost control of the election process.
Josef Stalin said, “Those who vote decide nothing. Those who count the vote decide everything.” In Colorado, the people as election judges no longer count the votes. Election judges and precinct polling places are gone as well. The government owns the election process.
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