Partisan bickering over a proposal to reform, and vastly improve, state election laws shouldn’t distract all Colorado residents from the fact that these are good ideas that need to be implemented.
Republican state lawmakers are having a political tantrum over the proposal being pushed through by Democrats, who hold majorities in the state House and Senate. Republican complaints are suspect and disingenuous at best.
GOP state Sen. Ted Harvey of Highlands Ranch said this week that Democrats are rushing through their proposals in the waning days of the Legislature in order to hoodwink voters.
What he’s not saying is that the proposal, already passed by the state House after spending weeks in the headlines, pretty much codifies how elections are already being conducted all over the metro area, simply providing voter conveniences to everyone — from every political party — all over the state.
The bill would standardize what Aurora already does by providing for mail-ballot elections all the time, ending expensive and confusing precinct voting sites and replacing them with regional, well-manned voting centers, and increasing the ways and ease that state residents can exercise their right to vote.
What’s new here, and anathema to state Republicans, is the notion of allowing for same-day voter registration. While long ago, advance registration was a way to help prevent voter fraud, technology has changed so drastically that all advance registration does now is keep honest, well-meaning voters from having a voice in government. Millions of potential votes have been thwarted by a system that is too cumbersome and too poorly timed. Why rob U.S. citizens of their most powerful right because they don’t pay close enough attention to election issues until it’s time for the election?
As proponents of same-day voter registration have pointed out, there is no evidence supporting critics’ claims that the convenience leads to any more fraud than any other election procedure. Eight states currently allow for same-day registration with no problems being reported there. The process would allow a resident from any political party, or none, to register and vote on the same day after jumping through hoops to screen them out as potential cheaters. It would prevent fraud but allow for a vote.
Clearly what Republicans object to is their perception that same-day voter registration would somehow benefit Democrats more than it would Republicans. The evidence and logic here is sketchy, but Democrats are being equally disingenuous about the changes given that same perception.
What it does is allow new and usually unmotivated voters a way to make their voices heard right when they’re exposed the most to election information and advertising.
The bill affects all political parties and potential voters equally. Just as important, the measure would end confusing and unfair rules that drop voters from the rolls because they miss voting in an election. The so-called “inactive” voter rolls do nothing to prevent voter fraud and only work to keep voters from becoming “active” again. If the argument is that a motivated voter, who knows and is able to navigate cumbersome rules, is a better voter, that’s not what our democracy is about. Those same arguments were used to keep women and minorities from voting for many generations.
For a political party that recently wants to contort itself in an attempt to demand unabridged Second Amendment rights, it’s surprising to see some of these same lawmakers embrace endless and meaningless restrictions on America’s hard-won and invaluable right to vote. Enact these changes sooner, not later.