DENVER (AP) — Colorado Democrats advanced an elections overhaul Thursday that includes mailing ballots to every registered voter and allowing same-day registration — proposed changes that have Republicans nervous about the potential benefit to Democrats.
Both parties argued for hours before taking an initial unrecorded voice vote in the state House after Republicans posed more than a dozen unsuccessful amendments.
The bill is the latest piece of substantial legislation introduced by majority Democrats in a session that has included gun control, civil unions and immigration. Republican leaders contend they were excluded from the crafting of the elections bill, which can have major future ramifications.
“I certainly think that’s playing into why the Democrats didn’t allow us to come to the table to work with them on this bill because their goal is to create a circumstance for themselves where it makes it harder for Republicans to win,” said Republican Rep. Mark Waller, the GOP’s House leader.
Democrats insist they were transparent and point to support from a bipartisan clerks association.
“There’s nothing secret about this process, and nothing secret about what took place here. This is a bipartisan process,” said Democratic Rep. Dan Pabon, one of the bill sponsors.
Waller responded that what Pabon said was “incredibly disingenuous.”
The Senate still needs to consider the measure, after its expected passage in the House, possibly as soon as Friday.
Although all registered voters would get ballots, they would still have the option to vote in person.
The bill would also eliminate the category of “inactive” voters. That category currently applies to voters who skip even one election and restricts their ability to get ballots by mail.
People would be able to vote at any of the voting centers that the bill would put in place, instead of the current system of going to a designated precinct polling place. Those would be eliminated.
Voters would also be able to register to vote on the day of an election, joining eight states and the District of Columbia that currently allow the practice, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Two other states, California and Connecticut, have passed same-day voter registration but have not implemented it, according to NCSL.
Waller acknowledged that same-day registration could help Democrats.
“Certainly, they’re more organized on the ground than we are and for that reason, same-day voter registration does favor them,” he said. He said Republicans need to improve their ground game, but added: “You can’t change that overnight. I mean, there’s a lot of ground to be made up.”
Democrats say their goal is to increase voter turnout and access to the polls for every eligible elector.
“Because no matter what side of the aisle you’re on, no matter who your candidate of preference is, your fundamental right to vote should not depend on who the secretary of state is, or who’s in charge in the General Assembly,” Pabon said.
By Ivan Moreno, AP Writer (© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)