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America Votes - Colorado

In Colorado, The Fight For Better Election Systems Continues

GOP lawmakers in Colorado are trying to put a two year hold on HB-1303, placing a yet another obstacle between voters and the polls. 

 

Remember how awesome it was when Gov. Hickenlooper signed the historic Colorado Voter Access and Modernization Election bill into law (HB 1303), which set the pace for modernizing the election systems in the state and make voting easier for Colorado citizens?

Well today, there's a hearing on SB 14-141, a GOP sponsored bill that would put an unnecessary hold on the law for two years and essentially put Colorado's election process back in the dark ages. The hearing in the Senate State Affairs Committee starts at 1:30pm MT.

2013 was a watershed year in Colorado electoral history with the passage of HB-1303, which provided a wide range of positive and comprehensive changes to the election process in the state. For example, voters now receive ballots in the mail and have the choice to vote by mail or in person, which aided a large influx in voter participation, with almost 400,000 more voters than 2011, according to the Colorado County Clerks Association. The law also made it easier for voters to change their addresses and adjust their registrations, which is an issue that impacts tens of thousands of people. Between October 15, 2013 and November 6, there were 29,155 voter registrations changes made, including 23,509 individuals who moved their addresses within their county.

HB 1303 received praise on the national level, including from conservative former commissioner and chairman of the Federal Election Commission, Trevor Potter. And based on the recent Presidential Commission on Election Administration, Colorado has already satisfied almost all of the listed "best practices": online registration, early voting, vote centers, choice of mail ballots or in-person voting, live e-poll books and others. Public policy think tank Demos made similar recommendations in their report, entitled “Millions to the Polls”, and also recommended allowing voters to vote or change their registration information through Election Day.

A two-year hold on HB-1303 would serve as a unnecessary step back and roadblock between voters and the polls. We urge the Senate State Affairs committee members to kill SB 14-141. 

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All is Not Lost in the Colorado Recalls

A victory in Colorado for the NRA does not mean a total loss for progressives.

Two progressive champions have been ousted from the Colorado state Senate in its first ever state recall. State Senate President John Morse and Senator Angela Giron lost their seats yesterday to their Republican challengers. The senators faced recall after voting for common sense gun safety laws that would institute universal background checks and limit the number of rounds a gun magazine can hold to 15. These results do not change everything though.

The recall does not affect the common sense legislation that passed earlier this year. 
The gun safety laws were supported by an overwhelming majority of Coloradans. Because of Morse and Giron's votes, now it is harder for criminals to get their hands on guns. These laws are on the books, and no amount of bullying will change that.

Democrats are still the majority party.
Despite the loss of two seats to Republicans, not much has changed in the command of power. Both the legislature and the governorship are still held firmly by Democrats.

The voters that turned out do not necessarily accurately reflect their districts.
Throughout the recall election, Republicans worked their hardest to suppress voters. As a result, the election had a very low turnout rate. Republicans did everything they could to disenfranchise voters. Mail-in ballots and information on voting locations were not available until just two weeks before election day.

Many voters are upset about the costliness of the recall.
This was a symbolic win for extremists, but moderate voters are frustrated with paying the bill. Taxpayers, not lawmakers, will be footing this bill. The elections cost up to $500,000. In fact, this recall was the costliest election to date in Pueblo County.

We must be diligent.
Morse and Giron had the courage to stand up for what's right. We can help others do the same with our support. The NRA and many other pro-gun organizations believe using scare tactics like a recall will prevent progressive lawmakers from passing gun safety laws. We can't let them be right. In her concession speech, Giron said she had no regrets about the votes she made. She went on to say, "I'm a fighter. We will win in the end, because we are on the right side."

We might have lost the recalls, but the fight is not over.

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On the Ground in Colorado: E-Day GOTV Kicks Off Bright and Early

America Votes sent several staff from our national office to Colorado to help with the recall elections. Our staff will be reporting from the ground.  Today is Election Day and the door knocking continues.

It has been an energetic GOTV so far despite the heat (90+ degrees), and now we've finally reached Election Day. Yesterday our canvassing crew of four knocked on nearly 400 doors in central Pueblo, where there was an encouraging number of "Vote NO" yard signs.
 
Volunteers were at the staging location at 6:30am this morning ready to go - including Sen. Angela Giron. This morning we've already dropped off overa 160 door hangers with Election Day reminders and will finish our final 70 doors in the next hour.
 
With the urgency of Election Day, we'll be returning to at least half of the doors where we didn't get a chance to connect with voters before 1pm today. We'll continue this cycle until the polls close at 7pm MT tonight.

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PICTURES: CO Recall Elections Today

Today, voters in two Colorado Senate districts will go to the polls to vote on whether or not to recall two state Senators for supporting common-sense gun violence prevention legislation.  America Votes and its partners are working hard to stop the recalls -- here are some pictures from the last few days of GOTV.  More updates to come!

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Update: Colorado Recall

Voting is in full swing in Colorado's recall of two Democratic state senators. State Senate President John Morse and Senator Angela Giron both face being recalled on Tuesday September 10th.

The recall comes in response to the common sense gun safety laws both lawmakers supported. The laws implement universal background checks across the state and lower the maximum number of rounds an automatic weapon can hold to 15. The elections are only taking place in two districts in the state but both have quickly earned national attention.

Donors from across the nation have contributed roughly $3.5 million. The National Rifle Association has given a reported $360,000 to groups in favor of the recall, a number that is expected to go up once final reports are submitted in October.

Early voting has already begun in the pivotal election with more than 20,000 constituents voting in Pueblo County, Giron's district, since August 30. In Morse's district, an estimated 9,500 voters have cast their ballots since early voting's start on Thursday.

Today, Governor John Hickenlooper released a statement saying he was concerned about potentially "unlawful" behavior at the polls:

"We are hearing disturbing reports that some people are being encouraged to go to the polls, not to legitimately vote, but to disrupt the process," Hickenlooper said. "That would be unlawful and makes a mockery of the democratic process. We urge the county clerks in Pueblo and El Paso counties to make clear that people engaged in attempting to disrupt the elections are open to criminal prosecution. We've also reached out to the attorney general to help us ensure fair elections take place this week."

America Votes and several of its partners are currently on the ground in both Pueblo and Colorado Springs. For information on how you can help and where to vote, visit www.coloradovotesno.com.

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Three Reasons Why You Should Care About the Colorado Recalls

The fates of two Colorado state senators will be decided on Tuesday, but the vote could affect more than just the state.

After the Colorado Senate voted to pass common sense gun control legislation, far-right conservatives started a campaign to recall five Democratic senators. Of those five, two now face recall: Colorado Senate President John Morse (D-Colorado Springs) and Senator Angela Giron (D-Pueblo). Morse and Giron voted to implement universal background checks and limit the size of ammunition magazines down to fifteen rounds.

The state, known for the Columbine High School shooting in 1999 and more recently the Aurora movie theater shooting in 2012, was split on the issue, and a campaign for a recall quickly caught national attention. According to a poll done by Quinnipiac University, the majority of voters in Colorado don't support the recall, saying that disappointed voters should wait until the next regular election. The stampede led by the extremist right and NRA has forced the recall despite what locals want. Now, on September 10, just a few thousand voters will have an impact on the national conservation on gun safety.

Here are the top three reasons why you should care about the recalls in Colorado:

1.It will have an impact on gun safety legislation nationwide.
Lawmakers across the country are watching this vote. They see it as a litmus test for gun safety legislation. If Senators Morse and Giron lose their seats, it will likely be interpreted on a national scale as a rejection of gun safety policies. Passing common sense laws that put universal background checks into place to insure domestic abusers do not get their hands on weapons will become even more difficult. Without those regulations in place, how much longer does the nation have until the next Aurora or Newton? But if Morse and Giron are not recalled, it will send a reassuring signal to lawmakers in other states who hope to pass similar legislation.

2.It could change the way progressives vote on tough issues.
Far-right conservatives are abusing recall powers by trying to oust elected officials based on how they cast their votes. This costly scare tactics have the potential to go beyond just one recall. Current and future elected officials might fear losing their jobs if they put their foot down on tough progressive issues. This is the first time in Colorado that a recall has been used, and its success could make a path for more fear mongering from right wing conservatives.

3.It's all about turnout.
Money has been pouring into Colorado, with an estimated total of $2 million campaigning for these districts' few thousand votes. But while many big spenders have been reaching for their checkbooks, America Votes and our partners have been hitting the ground with a grassroots effort to inform voters about this threat to our progressive values. Volunteers have been going door to door in Pueblo and Colorado Springs, talking to thousands of voters and encouraging them to get to the polls. It's anyone's guess as to which way the vote will go, but one thing is for sure: the only real way progressives can stand up to this needless attack on common sense policies is to vote.

For information on how you can help and where to vote, visit www.coloradovotesno.com.

 

 

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SCOTUS Decision Great, But Battle Isn't Over

While the Supreme Court's decision on Arizona v. Inter-Tribal Council is a step in the right direction, but it's not time to stop voter expansion efforts.

This week the Supreme Court ruled that Arizona could not require additional proof of citizenship for people to register to vote. Under the 1993 "motor voter" law, the federal government has a form that outlines that people only need an oath of citizenship to register to vote. This decision said that this federal form overpowers a state's choice to require additional documents or validation of citizenship.

So, what does this mean? This decision means that, in a federal election, a state cannot all of the sudden ask people to provide "X" and "Y" and "Z" as part of voter registration.

This is great news for Arizona, but the battle to expand voter rights isn't over. Arizona v. Inter-Tribal Council opened up a whole new debate. People must not see this decision as reason to slow or stop the effort to protect voters' rights.

What are the potential problems? While the ruling said that the states could not demand proof of citizenship not listed on the federal form, it said nothing about the states' ability to change the form. Theoretically, Arizona could go to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission work to revise the federal form to include a proof-of-citizenship section. Scalia stated in his opinion that even though Congress can regulate the "times, places, and manner" of federal elections, states have the authority to determine qualifications for who votes.

What does that mean? It means states are still very capable of restricting voters, such as the 21 million eligible voters in our nation who do not have a government-issued photo ID. New Hampshire can still begin their second phase of restrictive voter ID law that will force voters without a valid photo ID to have their picture taken and attached to their affidavit (note: as of yesterday, many New Hampshire students will at least catch a break at the polls). And while we're waiting to hear the decision on Shelby County v. Holder, who knows what else we could be up against if SCOTUS rules that Congress did not have the authority to reauthorize the Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

The fight is not over. The Battles of Lexington and Concord did not singlehandedly win the American Revolution. The progressive community cannot back down on educating lawmakers and the public about the consequences of adding red tape between voters and the ballot. That's why efforts like the voter modernization law in Colorado are invaluable and necessary. We need to continue to work together to ensure that these politically driven ideas do not become a costly policy to taxpayers and to American's ensured rights.

- KT

 

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Colorado Gov. To Sign Election Reforms Bill Into Law Today

This afternoon, Governor Hickenlooper will sign an election reforms bill that will enfranchise more voters and make voting a lot easier for citizens in the Centennial State.

This historic piece of legislation makes Colorado the third-such state to allow all citizens to vote by mail behind Washington and Oregon. The bill will also allow same-day voter registration and cut the costs of elections for the state, helping eliminate some of the confusion for voters at the polls. 

The bill also eliminates the category of “inactive” voters, that has been used as a mechanism to purge voters from the rolls.

The bill is an important victory for voters in Coloroado.

 

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AV IN THE NEWS: Improving Colorado's Elections

Check out the new op-ed piece in the Denver Post by Joan Fitz-Gerald and Donetta Davidson. Davidson is executive director of the Colorado County Clerks Association and a former Colorado secretary of state. Joan Fitz-Gerald is president of America Votes, former Jefferson County clerk and former president of the Colorado state Senate.

Colorado has a sound election system, but we can improve our system substantially so it better serves voters' needs, takes advantage of our technology, and saves tax dollars.

House Bill 1303, the Colorado Voter Access & Modernized Elections Act, meets all of those goals.

If you're reading this, you likely voted by mail last November, and you're in good company: Seventy-two percent of Colorado voters joined you. Mail ballots are a convenient, secure and private way to cast a ballot that is increasingly popular among Colorado voters.

HB 1303 answers the demand of these voters while providing ample options for voters who prefer to vote in person. It eliminates the "inactive-failed-to-vote" status that created confusion for voters. It creates a graduated registration system that scales down the demand on the system as Election Day approaches.

Click here to read the full piece. 

 

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New Radio Interview Of America Votes’ President With Host Dennis Creese In Colorado: “Impact Of State Legislatures On Workers & Their Families”

America Votes' President, Joan Fitz-Gerald, joined "The Labor Exchange" on KGNU-AM Radio this week to talk about politics, policy and the labor movement. Click here to listen to the full interview.  

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