State Legislature

Effort to change mail-ballot process fails

Bills allowing for challenges die in committee

Posted

A pair of Republican-sponsored bills aimed at making changes to the state's mail-in ballot process died in committee hearings on Jan. 27.

One bill would have given anyone the ability to challenge the validity of a mail-in ballot, while the other would have allowed voters to opt out of receiving ballots in the mail.
Both measures failed in a Democrat-led committee, following party-line votes.

The bills come a year after the state enacted a Democrat-sponsored elections overhaul bill, which in part requires that ballots be mailed to every Colorado voter.
Republicans have argued that the new election law will result in voter fraud.

Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch, sponsored Senate Bill 79, which would have given anyone permission to challenge whether someone is eligible to vote in a particular election or contest the validity of their mail-in ballot signature.

Under the bill, a challenge to a mail-in ballot would have required that the ballot be reviewed by two election judges from different parties. If both judges determined that the person is ineligible to vote in the election, the voter's ballot would be tossed.
"This is an evolving science, the use of mail ballots," Harvey told the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee. "I think we can solve these issues, for the most part.

Opponents of Harvey's effort said that the bill would not give voters whose ballots are ruled ineligible the ability to appeal the judges' decision.

Peg Pearl of Colorado Ethics Watch, a nonprofit election watchdog organization, said that electors would have no recourse through the "vague, closed-door process that the voter would not be involved in."

Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, D-Commerce City, the committee chairman, also expressed concern that the bill could end up disenfranchising Latino voters, whose residency status could be questioned "without cause," just because they may be Spanish speakers.

After committee members voted 3-2 to kill Harvey's bill, they took the same action on SB 71, which was sponsored by Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud.

Lundberg's bill would have allowed voters to opt out of receiving mail ballots, if they prefer to vote at traditional polling precincts.

"Many electors like myself would prefer to go vote and don't like the security concerns of the ballot going through the mail," Lundberg said. "They should have that option to simply opt out of the all-mail-ballot system."

Lundberg's bill received support from the League of Women Voters and El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Wayne Williams.

However, Pearl testified that the bill would create "a headache and nightmare for clerks," who could have to deal with confusion over whether voters wanted to permanently opt out of receiving mail ballots, or just wanted to do so for a particular election.