Eagle County Clerk and Recorder Teak Simonton is encouraging the county commissioners to support – or at least not oppose – the Colorado Voter Access and Modern Elections Act, which is nearing approval in the state legislature.
The legislation aims to streamline the voting process and make it more accessible for people to vote. Simonton said the changes would be a huge enhancement to customer service.
“House Bill 13-1303 is the bill that is causing all the uproar with Republicans versus Democrats,” Simonton said. “The legislation has significant relaxation in the voter-registration time deadlines before an election. Currently the deadline is 30 days before, which was put in place years ago when we didn’t have the statewide connectivity and didn’t have electronic registration. There’s really no necessary basis for that magic number of 30 days anymore. Legislators are talking about making the mail-in deadline 22 days before an election and the deadline for in-person registration at the clerk’s office would be eliminated altogether – people could register to vote on election day.”
Simonton said some people oppose the bill because the less-stringent deadlines for voter registration would open the door to fraud.
“There’s no basis for that,” she said. “There’s nothing that we do 30 days out that makes a difference. Currently, people are signing an affidavit 30 days out – they could do the same thing on election day. The vulnerability to fraud would be no different.”
The bill would also eliminate the inactive/failed-to-vote category. The way it is currently set up, inactive voters do not receive mail-in ballots for elections. A voter is considered inactive if the person did not vote in a previous election for which they were registered. The new system would send mail-in ballots to all registered voters even if they did not participated in the last election.
“Basically if you miss one election, you’re made inactive and you have to respond to us or you don’t get your mailings,” Simonton said.
Under the new legislation, voters would continue to get mail-in ballots regardless of voting status.
“There’s also significant provisions in the bill for cleaning up our address library without the voter having to take action,” Simonton continued. “We would be able to use the national change-of-address database, which is very secure.”
Additionally, the new system would have a more real-time recognition of people who are ineligible to vote and that will help the clerk’s office with efficiency.
“There would be an immediate recognition if a vote was not eligible, as opposed to a potential month-long delay to determine its validity,” Simonton said.
Other changes the bill proposes is expanding the hours of polling places and opportunities for voters to drop off ballots at secure locations.
Simonton estimated that Eagle County would have saved $80,000 in the 2012 presidential election with the measures proposed in the bill. She told the commissioners she was not looking for a resolution in support of the bill.
“I’m just asking you to not oppose it,” she said. “When (Colorado Counties Inc.) asks you how you feel about it, either express support or don’t oppose it. We’re hoping we can get CCI to take a neutral stance. We know there are a lot of Republican boards out there that are trying to stay in line with what the conservative leadership in the capitol is doing.”
Simonton said the opposition to the bill probably has more to do with politics than ballot security.
“If this bill passes, the people who are likely to vote in that last month are young, procrastinators or primarily Democrats,” she said.