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Reform to Colorado Election Laws Would Expand Mail-In Voting

by Lucas Eaves, published

election laws Jeffrey M. Frank /

Colorado Senator Angela Giron will soon introduce a new bill that will reform the state's election laws, including providing mail-in ballots for every voter in the state. However, the bill has already started a partisan fight over how it will benefit Democrats over Republicans.

Absentee voting by mail has become a very popular means of voting in recent years as it does not require voters to go to the polls. In the 2012 general elections, despite mail-in being optional, over 74 percent of Colorado voters chose to use it.

Following what was considered a plebiscite of the mail-in method by county clerks, Colorado Democrats decided to modernize the electoral system to increase voter participation. Currently, Colorado voters have to request to have their name put on the mail-in ballot list and if they miss one nationwide election, their name is removed from the list. Moreover, voter registration ends 29 days before Election Day.

The proposed bill would simplify the process by sending mail-in ballots to every single registered voter, making Colorado the third state to do so after Oregon and Washington state. Voters would be able to return the ballots by mail or at drop-in stations.

Coloradans would still be able to vote in-person by going to an election center and the bill would allow voters to register to vote up to and through Election Day.

Since the change would require up front costs in order to pay for all the ballots, proponents believe that, in the long run, it would save the state money. As more people mail in their ballots, less polling places, voting equipment, and election judges would be needed.

The bill will not go through the Legislature without opposition from Republicans. Secretary of State Scott Gessler has pointed out that Colorado was third in the country for voter turnout, meaning the current electoral system does not need to be reformed. He is also afraid that same-day registration could lead to more voter fraud because it would be difficult to verify if someone is registered in more than one county.

House assistant majority leader Dan Pabon believes the bill addresses this concern as it would ensure that all counties are wired for real-time access to the state voter database. Any person trying to vote twice would be immediately identified.

Any attempt at reforming elections seems to become a partisan battle where each party attempts to take the upper hand. However, the need to adapt election laws to today's reality is real, regardless of partisan agendas.

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