Democratic bill to change Colorado voting rules has Republicans ‘livid’

The latest partisan slugfest to take place in the Democratic-held Colorado legislature is shaping up to be about election reform, with Democrats preparing to introduce a bill mandating that every registered voter be allowed to cast a ballot by mail and allowing new voters to register through Election Day.

After a brief lull in partisan bickering that has dominated the legislative session — mostly over gun control — battle lines are again being drawn, with Republicans described by the Durango Herald as “livid” over the proposed legislation.

Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler — who sued two Democratic-majority counties before the last election to prevent them from mailing ballots to inactive voters — told a reporter for the Denver Post that he was in “full honey badger mode,” referencing the nickname he earned for his willingness to stand his ground and fight.

The bill, first reported in the Post, has the backing of the Colorado County Clerk’s Association, which says that the broad changes to how elections are held would be easier for voters and cheaper for counties.

The bill will require county clerks to mail ballots to every registered voter, including inactive voters who’ve skipped participating in a past election. Voters can still vote in person at election service centers located in every county.

The clerk’s association said 74 percent of those who voted in the last election did so by mail, giving a clear indication of how voters prefer to vote.

But Republicans fear the changes will lead to voter fraud, especially the provision allowing nonregistered Colorado residents to register to vote on Election Day. The current deadline to register is 29 days before a statewide election.

Gessler told the Post that wouldn’t give election officials time to ensure that voters aren’t registered in more than one county.

Despite the support of the clerk’s association — and the individual support of even some Republican county clerks — not all of them are sold on the bill.

El Paso County, for example, isn’t a member of the Colorado County Clerk’s Association, and its county clerk issued a press release slamming the bill.

“I am concerned about the integrity of the election system and preserving voter choice,” Wayne Williams said in the press release. “I asked my office to estimate the cost of making the changes in this rewrite.  Net cost increases from this bill in El Paso County will be $695,900 in 2014.”