Guest Columns

DOTY: A POLITICAL AGENDA AT WORK?

‘Modernization of Elections’ bill is a bad joke

Late last week state Rep. Terrance Carroll (D) proposed legislation at the capitol titled “Modernization of Elections.” I have several comments about this proposed legislation.

First, the title is ludicrous. This is not “modernization” of our elections, but rather a total “Re-write of the Colorado Election Process” and should be titled as such. This 69-page bill was introduced as a “late bill.” Fundamentally changing how elections are conducted requires much thought and deliberation and should not be rushed through the Legislature during the last month of the session. Was this done deliberately so that citizens would not have ample time to voice their opinion? And why must this process be changed in time for the 2010 election? Is there a political agenda here at work?

In general, the bill mandates repeal of the voter registration cutoff in favor of Election Day voter registration and authorizes all mail ballot elections. These two important issues should not be combined into one bill. There are some folks who may be happy to have all mail ballot elections, but protest strongly against Election Day Voter Registration.

Currently, voters prefer voting by mail as evidenced by 65 percent of all voters in the state requesting to permanently vote by mail. The significant change in this bill is allowing a potential voter to register to vote up to and on Election Day. Who will determine if a voter is eligible to vote? My main concern is protecting the integrity of our elections. We should focus on the greatest area of potential voter problems — voter registration. In 2004 the State of Arizona implemented Proposition 200 that required voter registration applicants to submit proof of citizenship. One year later the Maricopa County recorder’s office rejected 35 percent of new voter registration applications due to lack of proper proof of citizenship.

Elections that the public can believe in must preserve a delicate balance between access and integrity. The bill proposed by Carroll does nothing to strengthen the ability to determine the eligibility of a voter beyond doubt. Such a proposal seriously tips the scales away from an acceptable level of integrity in the process. We’ve seen the results of lax processes in the crimes committed by some now discredited “public interest” groups who have taken advantage of inadequate and ineffective identification and residency standards. This bill even allows political organizations to pick up voted ballots from citizens and hold them for 10 days before delivering them to the election officials! That is unacceptable.

The result of Election Day registration in some other states has been long waiting lines on Election Day, increased costs of staffing for the delayed registration process and the lack of ability to prevent registration fraud. It is not enough to simply prosecute a criminal disregard of election laws after the fact. A thoughtful approach that emphasizes integrity up front would enhance this state’s ability to prevent voter registration fraud. Colorado citizens expect and deserve no less.

Nancy Doty is the Arapahoe County Clerk & Recorder.