By Shawn Chitnis

DENVER (CBS4) – Lawmakers and organizers of Initiative 76 say they collected more than 200,000 signatures from across Colorado and turned in those petitions Tuesday to the Secretary of State’s office. They say if it passes, it would change the wording in the state constitution to ensure voting is limited to U.S. citizens.

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

“This is a great opportunity so that we can get in front of the voters first hand,” said Rep. Patrick Neville (R – District 45), the House Minority Leader. “They are going to get a chance to vote on it.”

Neville says elections in other states including California already allow noncitizens to vote, and he wants to prevent that from happening in Colorado. He says if the initiative passes, the Secretary of State could take further steps to ensure only citizens vote in Colorado elections, and lawmakers could write new legislation to enforce the change in the state constitution. The phrase “Every citizen,” would be changed to “Only a citizen,” according to organizers.

“It’s common sense to make sure our elections, only U.S. citizens should be voting in our elections,” he said alongside other lawmakers outside the Secretary of State’s office. “Make it crystal clear that only U.S. citizens are voting in our elections.”

But Democrats say Colorado elections are already fair, and this is a tactic to energize the GOP base in 2020. They argue it will not help improve the fairness of the voting process in the state.

“It’s not a real issue, not here in Colorado and not throughout this country,” said Rep. Leslie Herod (D – District 8). “This is just an effort to be divisive and stir up hate.”

She went on to say the support so far for this initiative has come from outside money, trying to influence elections in Colorado. She says voting in the state is one of the best in the country and does not need any major changes at this time.

“Colorado is a model for other states and that due to bipartisan efforts. People have come together across the aisle and said, let’s make voting easy,” Herod said. “I am 100 percent in our election system and so should you be.”

When asked about the funding for the initiative, Neville countered that the number of signatures shows the passion behind this issue locally.

The House Minority Leader also said eligible voters do not have any reason to fear the impact of this initiative if it passes.

“If they are a U.S. citizen, this is not going to impair them in voting in our elections at all, in fact it’s going make sure that their vote counts the way it should count,” he said.

Not only do Republicans want this initiative to help them pass new laws but Neville says it will prevent Democrats from pushing through their own legislation that could open up voting to noncitizens. Herod says that is not the issue before voters and the ballot measure is not going to improve elections in Colorado.

“I don’t think this ballot measure will help at all,” she said. “We can always evolve but in that evolution comes bold change and that’s Colorado moves forward.”

Shawn Chitnis

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