Senate Passes Election Overhaul Bill

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[May 2, 2013]  Colorado voters will see some big changes to how they get and cast their ballots this November, under a bill that took its last major step in the state legislature Thursday.

Democrats say their election overhaul bill will bring more voters into the political process, while their Republican colleagues decry it as one of the worst bills of the decade.

"Hugo Chavez would have loved to have a system like this," Senator Greg Brophy [R-Wray] declared during floor debate, arguing the legislation opens the door to massive voter fraud.

Under the bill, every registered voter will get a mail-in ballot for every election, although voters can still chose to vote in person at county-wide vote centers if they want. Those vote centers will also be able to register new voters up through the end of Election Day. It’s that provision that has Republican lawmakers especially up in arms. 

"There is no way whatsoever for the 80-year-old election judge being able to confirm that the person is who they say they are," said Senator Ted Harvey [R-Highlands Ranch]. "They will be able to vote and we will never know it was fraudulently done."

The bill relies on staff at vote centers having real-time access to the statewide voter registration database to make sure people aren’t trying to register or vote multiple times in different locations.

"We all want an election that has integrity and is free of fraud, and I believe this bill does that, and I believe that because the county clerks who’ve worked on it say we have an even more secure system under this bill than we even have currently," said Senate sponsor Angela Giron [D-Pueblo].

But the official who maintains that database, Secretary of State Scott Gessler, has raised concerns about using the program this way.

The election overhaul bill passed on party-line votes all the way through the process.  The state House still has to agree to changes made in the Senate before it heads to the governor.

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Read earlier coverage of the elections overhaul bill here.