March 28, 2012

(Denver) – Republicans on the House Local Government Committee killed a bipartisan bill today that would have helped thousands of active duty military servicemembers and senior citizens across Colorado continue to receive ballots despite changing address or missing one election.

Senate Bill 12-109 by Rep. Don Coram (R-Montrose) and Sen. Mike Johnston (D-Denver)  previously passed the Senate with a bipartisan 24-10 vote.

The bill had two major provisions. First, it would have eliminated the “Inactive Failed-to-Vote” status so that going forward, Coloradans would only be inactivated on voter rolls if they moved to a different address and didn’t update their record.  Second, it would have used the efficient National Change of Address data provided by the United States Postal Service to update voters’ addresses, ensuring cleaner voter rolls and decreasing undeliverable ballots as 20 other states already have.

Democrats on the committee were outraged, and Reps. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst (D-Boulder) and Pete Lee (D-Colorado Springs) led the charge in favor of the bill which would have saved local governments tens of thousands of dollars according to analyses done by clerks and recorders across the state.

“Coloradans are sick and tired of House committees being used by the GOP to kill good bills for partisan, political reasons,” Rep. Hullinghorst said.  “I hope they have a good answer for the seniors and veterans who will have a hard time voting, and I also hope they explain to county clerks why they are costing them more money.”

“This was a no-brainer bill that would have facilitated access to ballots for many Coloradans including active duty service members and senior citizens, which was supported by clerks and recorders from the very counties where several committee Republicans live,” Rep. Lee said.  “It’s a sad day for fair elections in Colorado.”

Reasons given by the committee’s Republicans for tossing this measure to help active duty soldiers and senior citizens continue to receive ballots after missing just one election amounted to questions about not having enough testimony. However, it was the GOP committee chair who placed a time limit on testimony to begin with.

Among the opponents of the bill were state GOP chair Ryan Call and Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler.  The bill received bipartisan testimony from county clerks for Mesa and Pueblo counties, where the districts of committee GOP Reps. Laura Bradford and Keith Swerdfeger lie, respectively.  Further testimony in favor of the bill came from the Denver Elections division, the League of Women Voters, Veteran’s Voice and several senior citizens.

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