2021 Leg Session, Elections, Featured, Sherrie Peif, Uncategorized

Election integrity bills appear doomed to quick death in Democrat-controlled Senate

DENVER — Two Republican-sponsored election integrity bills are headed for what is known as the “kill committee” in the Democrat-controlled Colorado Senate, with one drawing the ire of Secretary of State Jena Griswold.

Senate Bill 21-010, the Colorado Ballot Signature Verification Act, sponsored by Sen. Rob Woodward, R-Loveland, and Senate Bill 21-007, Improve Public Confidence Election Validity, sponsored by Sen. Paul Lundeen, R-Monument, are scheduled to be heard before the State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

Although State, Veterans and Military Affairs is likely where any bill making changes to how elections are handled would be heard anyway, the committee is also famous for being the Senate President’s committee of choice when he wants a bill to die. In this case, Lundeen said that is the assumed outcome of these bills.

SB-007 would require all voters to vote in person during the week leading up to election day and for all votes to be counted by the end of day on election day. Exceptions would be made for those who requested mail in ballots.

Secretary of State Jena Griswold claims in a news release that the bill would disenfranchise Coloradans by reducing voter access to mail ballots, this despite the bill allowing them to be requested.

“Ninety-four percent of Coloradans returned a mail ballot in last November’s record-setting General Election,” Griswold said. “Colorado’s election model is renowned as the nation’s gold standard due to both our election access and election security. This bill is a partisan effort to suppress the voices of Coloradans and should be resoundingly rejected.”

Lundeen said the reason for his bill was to get Griswold engaged in conversations, saying she has refused to this point to be involved in any conversation about possible changes to election law.

“We asked her to participate and heard crickets,” Lundeen said. “She chose not to participate so we ran a bill to get her engaged. I’m gratified we finally got her attention.”

Lundeen said the New York Times recently reported that there are more than 400 legislative proposals from Democrats and 100 from Republicans across the country to improve election laws.

“Clearly everybody thinks we need to improve our system. It is a good system. But you never let good be the enemy of great,” Lundeen said.  “If you don’t like this bill and we have broad bipartisan across county to improve the system, what would you do to improve it? That is what this bill is about. We need to engage in conversation.”

Weld County Clerk and Recorder Carly Koppes who is also the President of the Colorado County Clerks Association agreed with Lundeen, adding the reason Colorado is the gold standard for elections is because it is always working to make changes to improve on existing standards.

“We are always trying to make adjustments and tweaks to better our processes,” Koppes said. “We never settle. We are always looking for what we can improve.”

However, Koppes said the two bills as presented are not necessarily the answer.

“That takes us back to pre-2013,” Koppes said about SB-007. “Some of us have run elections in that matter, but trying to count everything in that time frame would be very challenging.  One of the goals of every clerk is to count things accurately and securely. We don’t want to rush because mistakes can be made. It would absolutely be astronomical to count that number of ballots. As we saw in the 2020 election, this turnout and every election there is more and more participation.”

Koppes noted that in Weld County alone registered voters have doubled from just more than 100,000 in 2006-07 to more than 200,000 in 2020.

Senator Woodward’s SB 21-010 would change how witnesses to signatures for other electors would be verified. It would close a loophole in current election law that Woodward previously told Complete Colorado was exposed during a legislative audit hearing in December. Woodward said the Larimer County Clerk and Recorder as well as others brought to light the ability to “witness” the signature on a mail-in ballot by anyone — including fictional characters.

“You could sign it Micky Mouse and put it in the mail and our county clerks are required to count it, no questions asked,” Woodward said.

The new law would require “the envelope used for the ballot’s return to show a place for the witness to list the witness’s voter identification number, and the witness is required to write the witness’s voter identification number on the return envelope. The county clerk is required to verify the witness’s signature. A witness must be registered in the same county in which the elector completing the self-affirmation is registered.”

Koppes said there definitely needs changes made to the witness verification, while adding the number of ballots cast in this manner is still very small.

“I want to gather data and information from all the counties to see what’s going on,” she said. “Other states have some really good policies in place that would be preferred. This is something we want to look at.”

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