May 12, 2013
Following a secret, months-long process and without any input from my office, voters or Republican legislators, Democrats rammed through legislation that fundamentally changes how we run our elections.
Unfortunately, this election-law rewrite will lead to disaster.
To begin, the bill forces Colorado into election policy that performs worse than our current system. The new bill mandates mail ballots for every voter and election-day registration.
Currently, Colorado ranks third best in voter turnout nationwide — one of the few states that increased turnout in this last election.
Colorado outperforms every all-mail ballot state in the country. And we outperform six of the eight election-day registration states.
But even if you like the policy, this bill is a rush to failure. Some may remember Denver voters waiting in line for hours in 2006.
Denver’s own analysis blamed much of the failure on vote centers and the rushed development of an Internet-only poll book. That analysis criticized the short time frame — eight months — to deploy the system.
By contrast, this bill’s unrealistic 100-day timeline will result in a sloppy, untested system that puts our voters at risk. Other states attempting this project have allowed themselves anywhere from 13 months to two years.
Additionally, the bill bans neighborhood polling places in exchange for scattered, big-box voting clearinghouses. By rushing development and mandating these clearinghouses, the Legislature is repeating every mistake that led to voters waiting in line for hours in Denver in 2006.
Even if implementation goes smoothly, election-day registration still opens the door to fraud. Because Colorado has weak identification requirements — an easily-forged utility bill is enough to vote — cheaters will be able to vote twice using different names.
These worries aren’t theoretical. This last election, El Paso County caught a person who registered five times using false information. County officials caught him, but only because they had 29 days before the election to investigate the registration fraud.
Under an election-day registration scheme, this person would have been able to vote several times. Also in 2012, Colorado saw instances of people from other states trying to illegally vote in our battleground state.
In 2004 the city of Milwaukee saw more than 4,000 more votes than registered voters. The resulting 68-page Milwaukee police report targeted Wisconsin’s election-day voter registration as the problem.
Finally, mandatory mail ballots remove choice and open the door to voter intimidation. Despite best efforts by all political parties and county registrars, about 1 million Coloradans reject voting by mail, and instead vote in person.
In fact, Colorado saw a spike in provisional ballots this last election, because people changed their minds and wanted to vote in person, rather than by mail.
But now everyone will receive a mail ballot — even if they don’t want one because they fear intimidation. Even now, the town of Center faces vote fraud charges because, as one witness said: “Once everyone gets a mail ballot in their mailbox, in some communities like mine, the bad guys will be there to intimidate them. They don’t get to say, ‘I don’t get a mail ballot. I go to the polls.’ ”
We should take time to get it right, because we can fix many problems. But the Democrat majority refuses to compromise.
Photo identification and proof of citizenship for late registrations dramatically reduce the chances for fraud, but Democrats refuse to even consider that.
Colorado should allow people the option to refuse a mail ballot and vote in person. From the start, Democrats have frozen out anyone who might disagree with them, refusing common-sense compromises.
Colorado voters deserve better.
Scott Gessler is Colorado’s secretary of state. This op-ed originally appeared in the Pueblo Chieftain.