As hearings began today on Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler's controversial proposed new election rules, including barring the delivery of mail ballots to so-called "inactive--failed to vote" voters who may have simply missed one election, House Democrats led by Rep. Crisanta Duran staked out their staunch opposition. From their release:
Rep. Crisanta Duran and 29 other state legislators called on Secretary of State Scott Gessler today to halt his efforts "to restrict the legitimate exercise of Coloradans' right to vote."
At a hearing convened by the Secretary of State's office this afternoon to discuss rules proposed by Secretary Gessler to prevent county clerks from mailing ballots to inactive voters, Rep. Duran (D-Denver) planned to hand him a letter, signed by 29 Democratic state representatives, saying his proposal "clearly oversteps your rulemaking authority."
"The Secretary of State can 'administer and enforce' election laws," the letter read. "What he or she cannot do is rewrite them. That prerogative is exclusively reserved to the General Assembly." [Pols emphasis]
Rep. Claire Levy (D-Boulder) was the prime House sponsor of the legislation that allowed permanent vote-by-mail status, which would be undercut by the proposed rules. "It was our intention in that bill to increase voter participation, not to create obscure procedural obstacles," Rep. Levy said.
The letter accused Secretary Gessler of waging "a campaign to create obstacles to voting by validly registered electors in the State of Colorado."
"The right to vote is a fundamental constitutional right," the letter said. "Your efforts to alienate that right are no more justifiable than abridging the freedom of speech or the free exercise of religion."
To briefly recap, a state law requiring that mail ballots be delivered to all registered voters with a valid address expired after the 2010 election cycle. Gessler lost in court last fall attempting to stop Denver and Pueblo counties from sending these ballots, after which several other Colorado counties joined them. This year, Gessler helped kill legislation that would have clarified the status of inactive voters statewide and ensured they got mail ballots--because the "uniformity" Gessler wanted was on the side of fewer ballots being delivered.
And this is where we find ourselves today. Gessler said last fall that his intention was to protect "uniformity" in Colorado elections, but now it seems only a certain kind of "uniformity" will do.
Full text of the letter to Gessler follows after the jump. We'll update tomorrow with coverage from today's rules hearing--any bets on Gessler suddenly being swayed by heartfelt testimony, maybe even a pang of remorse for seeking to curtail access to the franchise instead of expanding it?
Keep your money in your pocket, we're just kidding!
Honorable Scott Gessler
Secretary of State
State of Colorado
Dear Mr. Secretary:
We have asked Representative Crisanta Duran to deliver this letter to you and to testify on our behalf at today's rules hearing at the Colorado Secretary of State's office. We are confident in her ability to eloquently express our views, but we want to underscore two points:
1. We believe your proposed rule to prevent county clerks from mailing ballots in all-mail elections clearly oversteps your rulemaking authority.
There is nothing in the election law that currently prohibits clerks from mailing ballots to Inactive-Failed to Vote electors in a mail ballot election. The Secretary of State can "administer and enforce" election laws. What he or she cannot do is rewrite them. That prerogative is exclusively reserved to the General Assembly, of which we, the undersigned, are members.
We predict that your efforts to reach beyond your office's allocated authority will be met with skepticism by the courts.
2. We believe your attempt to rewrite the law through these proposed rules is part of a campaign to create obstacles to voting by validly registered electors in the State of Colorado.
The right to vote is a fundamental constitutional right. Your efforts to alienate that right a
re no more justifiable than abridging the freedom of speech or the free exercise of religion.
Our democratic process works best when the greatest number of people participate in it. Intimidation and suppression of legitimate voters harkens back to some of the darkest days in our nation's history. Attempts to reduce voter participation run contrary not only to the letter of the law, but also to the spirit of America and of the State of Colorado.
Mr. Secretary, you are the state's chief elections official. The people of Colorado look to you to be the guardian and protector of fair and free elections. We strongly urge you to halt all efforts to restrict the legitimate exercise of Coloradans' right to vote.