Lawmakers consider eliminating ‘inactive voter’ status

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DENVER — The Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee Wednesday approved a bill that would do away with the ‘inactive voter’ status on a 3-2 party-line vote.

Secretary of State Scott Gessler is currently facing litigation from several county clerks, including Denver’s for his directive that they mail ballots only to ‘active’ registered voters.

Voters can be labelled ‘inactive’ if they don’t vote in an election and then fail to respond to a postcard from their county clerk to verify their active voter status.

“I think the current system in Colorado strikes a pretty good balance,” Gessler told FOX 31 Denver Wednesday.

“If someone has been inactive, what Colorado asks them to do is ask for a mail ballot or show up and vote. It’s only about three percent of inactive voters who actually vote, and when they do, the signatures often don’t match, so that’s a real red flag.”

Gessler said maintaining the ‘inactive’ voter category protects against voter fraud and saves counties money at a time when budgets remain tight.

“No one knows how expensive this is on a statewide basis, but it has to be millions of dollars in ballots that are being mailed and processed and going out there that no one knows what’s happening to them.”

For this stance, Gessler has been vilified — and even nicknamed the “Honey Badger” — by Colorado Democrats who have accused him of trying to disenfranchise voters, predominantly minorities and the elderly who might have a harder time voting in every election.

“Voting is not a fundamental right. Voting is the fundamental right,” said Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, the sponsor of Senate Bill 109.

Republicans pressed Johnston on why it’s an “undue burden” to ask voters who have failed to vote to verify their status.

“The voter’s obligation is to vote, there’s no question,” Johnston responded. “But the fundamental question before us is: should one be punished for deciding not to vote? Should there be any added burden one has to go through, whatever it is, for making that choice?

“I think voting is not like a gym membership where it expires after 30 days if you don’t go back and sign up,” Johnston said.

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