2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Election law big issue at Capitol in 2014

Published: February 3, 2014, 9:45 am, by Megan Schrader

Jon Caldara, president of the conservative think tank Independence Institute in Boulder, Colo., Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013, casts a vote in the State Senate District 11 recall election at the El Paso County Citizen Service Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. Caldara attested that he lives in Colorado Springs in a sworn affidavit to vote in the election. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

A battle over Colorado elections laws is gearing up in the state legislature as Republicans try to postpone implementation of an election overhaul that took effect last year and Democrats propose a bill that will fix some glitches in the legislation.

GOP lawmakers are holding a press conference Monday afternoon to unveil a bill that would put a two-year moratorium on House Bill13-1303. Among other things HB 1303 created same-day voter registration and mandated that mail ballots be sent to every registered voter in the state. Those laws were first used during the November elections, but Republicans say the laws create too much opportunity for voter fraud and should be put on hold while the issue is studied further.

HB 1303 was first used in elections during the September recall elections. Jon Caldara, a Republican pundit from Boulder, used the law to register in Colorado Springs during early voting and cast a ballot – one that he left blank – in the election despite the fact that he hadn’t been living in the district before that day. Caldara has said the media stunt drew attention to flaws in the bill that would allow gypsy voting.

Democrats have a bill this year that would tweak the election law to fix problems that arose with local elections during the implementation of HB 1303. That bill House Bill14-1164 has already been passed out of the House with 37 yes votes and 25 no votes. There were three representatives absent or excused.

At the center of the debate is how local elections jive with the laws, particularly with the timing of registration. Some municipal elections require shorter or longer periods of time that a voter must be registered to vote in a district before participating in an election. That is in conflict with state law which allows voters to register on the day of the election. In Broomfield the problem has been exacerbated by a close election and questions about whether voters were registered to vote on time for the municipal ballot question about a fracking ban.