New bill de-regulates local elections--no rules is the result
Last year the legislature in Colorado led by former senator Angela Giron passed a sweeping election “reform” bill. The bill made a mockery of state-wide elections by reducing residency requirements, forcing all main-in ballot elections and de-emphasizing penalties for vote fraud. In their haste to “fix” state-wide elections—and with their eye on pending recall elections—Democrats created havoc for local elections.
This session, they are attempting to fix that oversight with another huge election bill known as House Bill 14-1164. But if you think fixing the mistakes in last year’s bill will make local elections better, think again. The bill will not fix the elections process to make the rules clearer, the requirements firm and to make vote counting an open, transparent and verifiable process. The intent is to make sure the fix is in.
In last fall’s recall election in Colorado Springs, students from Colorado College were allowed to vote, even if they were legally out of state residents. Jon Caldera of the Independence Institute came down to Colorado Springs to publicly request a ballot. No one was prosecuted.
While the 30-day state residency requirement was thrown out the window in 2013, a 22-day requirement remained for many local elections. No more.
Rather than admitting the failure of last year’s House Bill 13-1303, Democrats have doubled down on unregulated elections.
For example, HB 1164 rewrites the Uniform Election Code of 1992, the Colorado Municipal Election Code of 1965 and gives local governing boards the option to use either code—or neither, literally creating lawless elections.
Worse, the bill abolishes criminal penalties for registering with false addresses, false names, multiple registrations, or using someone else’s name to register to vote. Those have been serious crimes (18 months in prison) since the late 1800’s. Voter ID has never been a requirement in Colorado.
Additional “highlights” of the bill:
Exempts 2000 local taxing districts from Secretary of State election rules, and exempts their elections from any oversight by the Secretary of State.
Vests almost absolute power to control the election in the hands of one local official to appoint and fire election judges, and to remove any press or poll watchers at their whim.
Abolishes all residency requirements for voting in taxing districts such as fire districts, school districts, cities, towns, recreation districts, etc. Just show up and say you live here and vote—with impunity.
Who is behind this awful bill? Democrat Senator Jesse Ulibarri (Adams) and Representative Dickey Lee Hullinghurst (Boulder). That is the same Ulibarri who infamously said that women didn’t need concealed carry on campus—all they needed were whistles. When it comes to their Principles of Liberty ratings on the Rule of Law dimension for 2013, they rate an unsurprising 9% and 5% respectively.
More surprisingly, they found two Republicans to co-sponsor the bill. Representative Carole Murray (Douglas) favors the County Clerks Association. The Clerks Association advocates for government-run elections and generally seeks to minimize the citizen’s role. She’s also term limited.
In the senate, Ellen Roberts is co-sponsoring the bill. She represents a number of western counties and is up for re-election this year. She won in 2010 because Democrats attacked her Tea Party-backed opponent, allowing her to win the primary and thus the general election.
This is a horrible bill. It is opposed by independent elections watchdogs. Harvie Branscomb says that “Most of these tweaks [to current law] are intended to do things that citizens would not be proud of like reduce citizen oversight, remove sanctions for election violations and complicate elections from the voter point of view even more than the 1303 bill did. And of course this bill is longer than 1303 so it cannot be understood without a couple of weeks of reading.”
True to form, this and three other elections bill are being pushed through rapidly.
Branscomb writes, “I think we can all recognize the now standard tactic of first deliberately fail to expose the bill to the public before introduction, then suddenly introduce and then rush to adopt, cutting short time to read the bill. Purposefully leave no time to create arguments for or against the bill for committee hearings. Schedule the hearing too soon and at a time that can't be predicted. And so on and so on. What I now recognize as standard obstacles to citizen involvement.”
Exactly the tactics used last year for the prior elections bill, civil unions, gun control, rural alternative energy mandates and more. Although the gun control bills garnered the most vocal opposition, all those bills and more were rammed through quickly and with few or no Republican votes.
Election activist Marilyn Marks sums it up: “There dozens of completely unacceptable provisions. It is merely a bill to legalize lawless elections.”
Welcome to the Wild West. This is what you get when you vote for someone with a “D” behind their name.