COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., October 31, 2013 — This May, the Colorado legislature passed and Governor Hickenlooper signed a new voting law. Known as House Bill 1303, it was written in a secret committee by former Senator Angela Giron. The new law failed its first test in the recall elections in September. It is set to fail its second test for the election that will end November 5.
In Colorado, elections in odd-numbered years focus on local and non-partisan races. Election turnout is much lower than for even-numbered year elections; without the hoopla surrounding high-profile races, most people sit these elections out.
Because of the low voter turnout, people who want tax increases use off-year elections as an opportunity. This year the big effort is Amendment 66. Colorado is shielded from the kinds of huge tax increases seen in Illinois or California by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). TABOR forces the legislature to put large increases to a vote of the people. The Democrat-controlled legislature passed Amendment 66 — not a single Republican voted for it — which will raise over $1 billion in new taxes next year — and every year thereafter.
But that’s not all. Amendment 66 will produce nothing in the way of education reform, nor will it improve education for the children of Colorado. What it will do is redistribute dollars to Denver area school districts at the cost of a 27 percent permanent tax hike. It will also create a two-tier, so-called “progressive” income tax whereby success is punished.
It is a gift by the Democratic legislators to their friends in the teachers’ unions who are looking at huge unfunded liabilities in their state-funded pensions. It should come as no surprise that the majority of the reported $7 million in advertising for the amendment is paid for by the Colorado Education Association and the National Education Association. Other money flowing into school district elections is coming from the Melinda Gates Foundation and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
It seems as though out-of-state, big-donor Democrats aren’t done flooding the state with green in their attempt to keep Colorado blue.
It is not just the state-wide Amendment 66 that is at stake in this election. There are virtually dozens of tax initiatives on ballots across the state; almost all of Colorado’s 64 counties have them. There are school taxes, marijuana taxes (now that it’s legal), hotel taxes, property taxes, special improvement district taxes and more.
The good news is that because of TABOR, citizens get to vote on them. The bad news is that because of HB 1303, it is not at all clear who is going to be eligible to vote.
The new law was designed to shield former senators Giron and Morse from being recalled by reducing the residency requirement to be eligible to vote from 30 days to zero. Same-day voter registration is allowed. Morse took advantage of the new rule to bus college students in from liberal Colorado College.
There’s more. All elections are now to be all mail-in balloting. Everyone on the voter rolls, active as well as inactive, gets a ballot. That means that the state has been flooded with ballots for an election that sees low turnout.
It’s an invitation to fraud. El Paso County has had over 38,000 ballots returned as undeliverable so far; Boulder County, 20,524.
It is unknown how many ballots have been or will be voted fraudulently. The sister of one state senator received four ballots she could have used: one for her at her current address, one from another county at a former address, one for her ex-husband who has been out of state for eight years, and the fourth for a former tenant who has moved to Oregon.
An investigative reporter for the Independence Institute found ballots thrown in the trash in his apartment complex.
The combination of all mail-in ballots and same-day registration can be devastating to election integrity. There are many ways to commit vote fraud by either one of these methods and people who want to cheat know how. For many detailed examples, there are no better references than John Fund’s Stealing Elections and his recent Who’s Counting? with Hans von Spakovsky.
In Colorado, there is an additional twist that is causing havoc already: In her haste to protect herself from recall, Angela Giron waived the residency requirement. However, provisions for local home-rule jurisdictions have not changed. Thus, almost anyone can vote for or against Amendment 66, but might not be able to vote for the local school board, a property tax increase, or the city council.
Different county clerks have reacted in different ways. In small Grand County, the clerk has made a decision matrix with eight rows and six columns to determine eligibility. In El Paso County, the state’s largest, there are 11 pages of instruction to election officials. Some clerks — such as in Arapahoe County — are simply letting everyone vote for everything.
Not sure how to vote? No problem! Just go to a union-sponsored “ballot-marking party.” Although highly illegal, one was advertised on Facebook last week for Douglas County, where there is a hotly-contested school board race. To his credit, an assistant district attorney issued a warning letter to the organizers.
Despite all its problems, liberal “voting advocacy” groups tout HB 1303 as the new “gold standard” of election law. It must be a case of “You pay the gold, you get the standard.”
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