DENVER (AP) — The governor is expected to sign a measure into law that would redefine how Colorado elections are run, allowing same-day voter registration and having ballots mailed to all registered voters.
Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper is expected to sign the bill Friday afternoon in his office, according to Rep. Dan Pabon, a Denver Democrat who sponsored the bill.
“This is a historic measure that will enfranchise more voters in Colorado than we’ve ever seen in our state’s history,” he said.
The bill passed with unanimous support from Democrats, but not a single Republican voted for it, citing concerns about voter fraud with same-day registration.
“I think those fears are without basis,” said Pabon said, noting clerks already have a system in place to verify voters on Election Day for emergency registrations.
Republicans also argued the measure would be a game-changer for future elections, and some called the measure the most important of a session that was packed with contentious legislation.
Under the bill, every registered voter would get a ballot by mail, although they still could vote in person at any of the vote centers established by the bill, instead of the current system of going to a designated precinct polling place. Those would be eliminated.
The bill also would 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.
Democrats, who worked with a bipartisan group of county clerks to craft the bill, said the goal was to increase voter participation and make it easier to vote.
Republicans who debated against the bill for several hours remained skeptical.
“You’re already winning the elections. Do you need to steal them, too?” Sen. Bill Cadman, the GOP’s Senate leader, said during final debate on the measure.
Republicans are concerned because under Colorado law, people can register to vote without a photo ID or Social Security number, and a utility bill can be used as identification when they vote. Republicans worry the current system makes it easier for people to cheat with same-day registration.
However, clerks who support the bill note it’s rare for people to register without a photo ID or Social Security number. For example, 487 people in Denver registered without such identification since 2008 out of a voter population of 354,519. That’s far less than 1 percent.
And even in those cases, clerks said election officials go through a lot of verification processes to confirm a voter’s identity. Jefferson County Clerk Pam Anderson has repeatedly noted that cases of fraud have been extremely rare.
Eight states and the District of Columbia allow same-day voter registration, 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 the organization.
During debates, GOP lawmakers repeatedly complained that they were not included in the bill’s crafting and that Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler — who has become a lightning rod in state politics — was purposely excluded.
“The public would’ve been better-served to have everybody participate in this process,” said Rep. Mark Waller, the GOP’s House leader.
By Ivan Moreno, AP Writer (© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)