Earlier this year, Secretary of State Scott Gessler mailed letters to roughly 4,000 Colorado voters, telling them his office would be looking into their citizenship. He then searched for their names in a federal immigration database, and found that 441 of them weren't seen as citizens.
Last week, Gessler announced that, if they hadn't already, those 441 people would be receiving another round of letters, telling them to verify their citizenship or remove their voter registrations.
It's not a big number, given that there are 3,644,344 total registrations in Colorado. But it's the best a "voter-roll integrity" advocate like Gessler can do in the absence of a voter ID law here.
In the past two years, state Rep. Libby Szabo, R-Arvada — Colorado co-chair of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) — has introduced legislation that would institute strict photo-ID requirements at the polls. In 2011, she introduced a bill in the Republican-controlled House that would have limited ballot access to those citizens possessing "state-issued photographic identification." That bill died in the Democrat-controlled Senate Committee on State, Veterans & Military Affairs.
During the 2012 regular session, she introduced legislation that would put the question of ballot access to the voters. Again, that bill passed out of the House, only to die in a Senate committee.
Republican Rep. Mark Waller, who represents El Paso County's House District 15, voted in favor of both bills.
"In my mind, it is ridiculous that you can take your utility bill down to the polling place and use it to vote," he says. "With something that is so sacred in our democracy, it seems that we should have more safeguards in place."
Senate Majority Leader John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, sees it otherwise, comparing it to a hypothetical law that would stop everyone coming out of the mall to ensure they haven't shoplifted.
"It doesn't add to ballot security or election security at all, because there's nothing to add," he says. "And all it does is keep legal people from voting, so there's no benefit."
Morse says Republicans so far have been unable to present a single instance in which a person definitely voted illegally. However, he counters, there are plenty of instances where the act of securing a photo ID would be difficult for a voter. Among those affected: people who live in nursing homes, people who live on the streets, and people for whom standing in line six hours at the DMV might be physically impossible.
Waller calls this a red herring.
"The Supreme Court has upheld that it is not an overly burdensome impediment to voting," he says. "There are a very few number of people out there who don't currently have IDs."
Regardless, Morse and the Democrats currently in control of the Senate have drawn the line in the sand.
"It's a voter-suppression strategy that we will not implement while we are in charge of the House or the Senate," says Morse. "We will make sure people have the right to cast their ballot."
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