County Clerk Wayne Williams, a staunch Republican, can’t hide his frustration. State Rep. Pete Lee, an equally determined Democrat, can’t hide his elation. Many of the state’s other county clerks, who are Republicans, actually feel the same as Lee. Everyone who cares about how Colorado’s elections are run seems to have an extreme opinion about House Bill 1303, which sailed through the Colorado General Assembly in its final days and was signed into law last Friday. Mail ballots will now go out to all registered voters — in other words, there’ll be no more “inactive” voters — and residents will be allowed to register and vote on election day, as in nine other states (including Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, which generally lean conservative).
We have asked how the law affects city elections, with no response yet. But though the Legislature’s biggest headlines focused on gun control, civil unions, marijuana, public-school finance and immigration reform, Lee got an indication of the public’s priority when he talked to a group of constituents. He outlined the most prominent bills, and when he mentioned HB 1303, Lee said, “it received the loudest applause.”
The reaction, of course, depends on the audience. And nobody is growling more than Williams, who opposed the bill and loudly took issue with the Colorado County Clerks Association, which helped write it. The clerks group includes more Republicans than Democrats, and its top three leaders (from suburban Denver, Grand Junction and Durango) are all Republicans.
Williams, by the way, severed his ties with the clerks association at the end of 2012 because of policy disagreements. He dismisses the fact that plenty of Republican county clerks support the bill; most of them, he says, work in rural areas and thus appreciate the emphasis on doing elections by mail.