Colorado lawmakers pass bill to governor's desk expanding automatic voter registration

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Posted at 4:23 PM, May 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-02 19:04:03-04

DENVER – Colorado lawmakers on Thursday sent a bill that will expand the state’s automatic voter registration system to the governor’s desk with less than 24 hours remaining in the 2019 legislative session.

SB19-235 passed the House in a 40-23 vote Thursday. The bill, which is supported by Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, passed the Senate last week in a 20-15 vote.

The measure, if signed by Gov. Jared Polis, will expand opportunities for people to automatically register to vote in Colorado but also contain ways for people who don’t wish to automatically be registered to vote to opt out of the process.

According to the measure, anyone who applies for a new or renewed driver’s license or ID card at a Colorado DMV location will have their data sent directly to the Secretary of State’s Office. If the person has provided proof of citizenship, their respective county clerk will review the information and send the person a postcard notifying them they will be registered to vote at that address.

The potential voter will then have 20 days to accept the registration and choose to register with a party, or to decline the registration.

People applying for Medicaid will go through a similar process, and the measure would also establish a process for people who register through voter registration agencies to get a signature on file in the state’s database for crosschecking purposes.

The bill’s prime sponsors are Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder; Sen. Jessie Danielson, D-Wheat Ridge; Rep. Daneya Esgar, D-Pueblo; and Rep. Kyle Mullica, D-Northglenn.

“Colorado already has a leading elections system in the country, however, there are ways we can improve it even more. This bill ensures our voter roles are secure, accurate, up to date and that everyone who is eligible to vote can not only receive their ballot but send and access their ballot,” Esgar said in a statement. “We need to make sure that anyone who is eligible to vote has no barriers to access the ballot and this bill ensures an accurate and secure way to accomplish this. Democracy works when we all get to participate and that’s what this bill does.”

Proponents of the measure say it will cut down on the amount of money counties spend sending ballots to homes where voters are no longer currently registered and will further increase the state’s already-high turnout rates for statewide elections.

Griswold supported the measure as well and lauded its passage Thursday.

“Expanding automatic voter registration will increase access to voter registration for eligible Coloradans and help us make our voter rolls more accurate. This is a major step forward in Colorado becoming a national leader on democracy,” she said in a statement.