County clerks, secretary of state face off on election changes

By Joe Hanel
Journal Denver Bureau

DENVER – La Plata’s county clerk returned to the state Capitol this week to testify in favor of changing the way Colorado conducts its elections.

On Saturday, a group with Republican ties blanketed La Plata County with mailers attacking County Clerk Tiffany Lee Parker, also a Republican, for her support of House Bill 1303.

Citizens for Free and Fair Elections sent the fliers from a return address that matches Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s old law firm. The group is a nonprofit and does not reveal its funding.

Gessler and Republicans in the Legislature oppose HB 1303. But Parker helped write it, and most county clerks support it.

The bill would tell county clerks to send a mail ballot to every voter. Voters could then decide to vote by mail or in person up to two weeks before Election Day.

It will be easier for voters if they don’t have to guess whether they will get a mail ballot, Parker told the senate State Affairs Committee.

“The current Colorado laws cause unnecessary hardship to our citizens to cast their ballot,” Parker said.

Democrats hold a 3-2 advantage on the committee, and they expected to pass the bill Wednesday night after a lengthy hearing. The bill has already passed the House and needs approval from the full Senate.

Republicans are upset that the bill would allow voters to register on Election Day.

“That’s my biggest concern with this whole bill, is voter fraud, and having individuals go from one county to another,” said Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch.

Jefferson County Clerk Pam Anderson told Harvey the new system would use the same safeguards as the current one. When voters come to register, even on Election Day, clerks will enter their names into the state voter database, make sure the addresses aren’t fake, and check their names against a state database of driver’s licenses, felons and deaths.

Gessler said his office would not be able to make the changes before the November election, as required by the bill. The system relies too heavily on the Internet, and a crash on Election Day could cause a catastrophe, he said.

“I am telling you, this is a rush to failure. And I am on record here today telling you this is a system that is extremely volatile. It will be extremely vulnerable when you give us five months to implement the whole thing,” Gessler said.

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