Jan 27, 2011 7:28 AM by Bea Karnes
DENVER (AP) - A divisive proposal to require proof of citizenship when people register to vote failed narrowly after a long and heated hearing Wednesday in a Colorado Senate committee.
Backers of the plan say they hope it fares better in the Republican-controlled House.
Senate Bill 18 would have required passports, birth certificates or naturalization papers for Coloradans trying to register to vote. A similar requirement in Arizona was struck down by a federal appeals court last October.
Republican supporters, including Secretary of State Scott Gessler, argued the measure would prevent voting fraud, but the question failed 3-2 amid Democratic concerns the requirement isn't needed. The requirement would apply to new applicants, but not existing voters.
Gessler said his office compared information from the Department of Revenue and the state's voter registration system and found more than 16,000 potential non-citizens on the state's voter registration rolls. He said he also identified 154 persons who submitted voter applications that were later ruled ineligible.
"We already verify the other fields on the voter registration form. We need to give Colorado voters the integrity they deserve in their voter rolls. I think most people will agree that we have vulnerability and I'm open to working with opponents of the measure to improve the integrity of our voter rolls, while preserving access to the ballot to the citizens of this state," he said.