DENVER – A bill that would automatically add Coloradoans to the voter rolls whenever they go to the DMV has cleared its first committee hearing in the State Legislature. Senate Bill 19-235, the Automatic Voter Registration Bill, is part of a package of election reforms requested by new Secretary of State Jena Griswold who hopes to improve voter participation in our state.
Colorado voters are already among the most engaged electorates in the country, but Griswold thinks we can do even better.
“What this bill will do is it will enable us to continue that leadership,” Griswold said.
She explained that the bill codifies what is already become a common practice at many DMV offices around the state. Typically the counter workers will tell their customers they are eligible to vote and that they will register them unless they decline. However, not everyone voter drives. So, the bill would also automatically register people who receive government benefits like SNAP, TANIF, and Medicaid.
“The fact is that younger people, working people, people with disabilities, older people just aren’t going to drivers license offices as much as others,” explained Griswold. “So, we want to make sure that government meets people where they are.”
She added that expanding access is also the goal of the omnibus election bill, House Bill 19-1278. That bill makes multiple changes in state election law including some new requirements for how elections are to be run by the 64 counties.
It requires a greater number of ballot drop off boxes and county clerks must open an increasing number of polling places in the days leading up to and through Election Day in order to reduce the wait times. Griswold said the legislation prioritizes spending for elections in areas where the data show it’s needed most.
“Coloradoans really start to turn up and show up to vote the Friday before the election,” she said. “So, we’re going to be reallocating our resources to make sure that every Coloradoan, no matter how they vote; whether that’s from home, in early voting or showing up on Election Day, has that access that they need.”
El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Chuck Broerman told News 5 on Monday that the bill’s requirements will increase his cost to run an election by anywhere from 25 to 50 percent.
“For El Paso County, that would mean anywhere from $700,00 to $1.5 million dollars in increased election costs,” Broerman said.
El Paso County Commissioners passed a resolution Tuesday morning formally opposing the passage of HB 1278 for these very reasons.
Griswold said the counties won’t have to cover these new expenses alone.
“Something that I’ve committed to is making sure all of the new drop boxes are paid for by my office,” she said.”And the legislature right now is going through appropriations and I’m optimistic that they will be finding some money for all of our counties.”
Griswold also supports two additional bills that she hopes will increase transparency in political spending. The bills would eliminate the Colorado equivalent of Super PACs, that’s the federal designation for political committees that can raise unlimited amounts of money but cannot directly campaign with or for candidates or parties.
Griswold said the bills will also require disclosure for high dollar donations from corporations and other large donors, and that individuals from foreign countries would be prohibited from donating in Colorado elections.