DENVER — House Democrats pushed through a controversial bill that would change how Coloradans vote after more than six hours of debate on the House floor Thursday afternoon.
Republicans spend hours arguing against the massive overhaul of elections law, that would send a mail ballot to every registered Colorado voter whether or not they request one, install a state-of-the-art electronic database to monitor registration and voting information and detect fraud in real-time and, most controversially, allow people to register to vote as late as Election Day.
But they didn’t have the votes to stop the measure, which got an initial okay on a voice vote and could see a final, recorded vote on Friday.
“We need to update our systems into the 21st century,” the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, told FOX31 Denver. “We will know when someone’s voted and we will be able to track that.”
Pabon has the support of the Colorado Association of County Clerks on his side. The group helped draft the legislation, along with other groups like Common Cause and AFSCME.
“It’s a partisan power play,” said Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler, who is angry that the bill’s sponsors didn’t include his office or any GOP lawmakers when drafting the legislation.
“If Democrats truly believed that this bill was about fair elections rather than partisan advantage, they would have followed precedent and worked across the aisle. Instead, they brought union bosses, party lawyers and liberal activists to the table,” said Colorado GOP Chairman Ryan Call in a statement earlier this week.
“It should raise flags for everyone when Democrat operatives, AFSCME, and liberal groups like Colorado Common Cause were invited to draft an elections bill, but the Secretary of State, Republican legislators and other experts were kept in the dark until the last minute. The people of Colorado deserve better, especially when the integrity of our elections are at stake.”
Democrats, including House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, have scoffed at the notion that they should have included Gessler, who they regard as a blatantly partisan and unethical officeholder in a non-partisan office.
Gessler and other Republicans believe that same-day registration will lead to more rampant voter fraud, arguing that even if improved technology succeeds at detecting it, clerks won’t have enough time to respond to it.
An editorial from the Denver Post Thursday agrees with that assessment and argues that the move to same-day registration comes too quickly.
“We worry the bill mandates a timeline that is too aggressive, particularly since it relies on technology that hasn’t been tested,” the Post editorial board writes.
The legislation would put the system in place this November so it can be given a trial run during a smaller scale election.
“Our lives have changed and elections need to keep pace,” said Rep. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, D-Boulder, the bill’s other prime sponsor. “A 30-day cutoff for elections was required when voters had to register on paper. In the internet age we have the technology to ease those deadlines. Allowing voters to register through Election Day doesn’t change any of the legal requirements already in place.”