Democrats are expected to introduce a sweeping elections bill Wednesday that would allow residents to register to vote through Election Day, and send mail ballots to every voter, according to a draft of the bill obtained by The Denver Post. The measure is expected to launch another partisan battle under the gold dome, as Republican leaders, including Secretary of State Scott Gessler, say the legislation would lead to voter fraud. The bill, prompted by the state’s county clerks, will put real-time technology to work on elections, save voters time and ultimately save taxpayers money, said Rep. Dan Pabon of Denver, the House assistant majority leader. “We’re not voting the way we did in the 19th century,” he said. “We’re not still voting the way we did in much of the 20th century. It’s time to bring our elections into the 21st century.” Those who still want to vote in person will be able to go to an election service center open at least 15 days before the election, The Colorado County Clerks Association, which asked for many of the provisions in a letter to lawmakers last November, said 74 percent of the state’s residents already voted by mail.
Gessler said mail-balloting throws the remaining 26 percent into an inefficient system, noting problems Denver had with 55 service centers in 2006, when voters stood in lines for hours and votes took days to count. Moreover, he said, if people are allowed to register and vote on Election Day, there won’t be time to weed out those registered in more than one county, or who aren’t who they say they are. He said weak voter ID laws worsen matters.
Sen. Angela Giron of Pueblo, who will sponsor the bill in the Senate, replied, “If anything, this will reduce voter fraud.” Giron and Pabon said tying together the counties to a state database in real time would instantly flag any voter who tries to vote twice. Pabon said the current deadline to register — 29 days before a statewide election — was picked in the days everything was done on paper and by mail.
Donetta Davidson, executive director of the clerks association, a Republican and Colorado’s Secretary of State from 1999 to 2005, said the changes would deliver convenience and cost-savings. “There’s going to be some cost up front to mail the ballots, but it’s going to save money in the long run,” she said. “Think about how much we’re spending on election equipment, and when you have this expensive equipment you have to fix it. You’re saving a lot of money right there.