Democrats poised to change definition of ‘election day’ in Colorado

Greg Campbell | Contributor

The Democratic-controlled Colorado state senate passed a controversial bill that they say will fix a flaw in a sweeping elections reform bill they passed last year.

The election reforms ended up throwing the special recall elections into chaos.

But Republicans say the new measure, which would redefine “election day” as the first day of early voting in order to allow voting by mail during recall elections, violates the state constitution.

Last year’s law requires that recall elections be conducted by mail ballot, but it conflicts with the state constitution, which allows candidates to petition their names onto the ballot up to 15 days before an election.

In that circumstance, county clerks don’t have time to print and mail ballots.

That’s what happened in September, when a Libertarian candidate wanted to put her name on a ballot seeking the recall of former state senate president John Morse. Morse and former Sen. Angela Giron, Democrats who were targeted for their support of Colorado’s new gun control laws, were both ousted from office by voters who — due to the new law and its conflict with the state constitution — had to show up in person at hastily-arranged polling locations.

Democrats have contended that mail ballots would have reached more people and could have saved Morse and Giron.

“When their votes are suppressed or discouraged or made inconvenient, the values that we hold dear are not championed,” said bill sponsor Sen. Pat Steadman, a Democrat, in comments reported by the Colorado Observer. “This is all about making our election process work smoothly for the clerks and the election officials that must administer the election, and making it convenient and accessible and possible for our citizens to vote in our elections.”

But Republicans say the blame for last year’s disorganized recall elections rests with the Democrats, who passed last year’s election bill without a single GOP vote.

“Why were the elections chaos?” Republican Sen. Ted Harvey told the Observer. “Were the elections chaos because the constitution put in place a scenario that could not be met? Or was it a statute that had been in place for 10 months that caused the chaos?”

The bill will moves onto the state house, where Democrats also hold a majority and it is eventually expected to reach the desk of Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper.

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