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Jason Salzman

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Colorado Tops Country in Bad Treatment of Some Registered Voters

Posted: 10/24/11 12:37 PM ET

It seems crazy that in Colorado, you won't necessarily get a ballot in the mail, like other good and decent registered voters, if you missed voting in just one election.

I haven't seen much info reported locally on how other states deal with this issue.

So I got in touch with the Brennan Center for Justice, which got a bunch of national attention for its recent report about the menu of new rules around the country that tighten "restrictions on voting," and it looks like Colorado is unique in its treatment of "inactive" voters.

Jonathan Brater, a Law Clerk with the Brennan Center's Democracy Program, wrote me that Colorado is one of just a handful of states that don't mail ballots to all "inactive" voters, and Colorado rushes voters into the "inactive" category faster than any other state.

So, Brater points out that "in any other state, there would be no possibility that a duly registered voter would not receive a mail ballot simply because she missed one election."

Our current research is not yet complete, but so far reveals Colorado is unique in a number of very relevant ways: Colorado is the only state we have identified where a person becomes inactive if they miss just one election. Also, our research has not identified any other state that makes a statutory distinction among different classes of inactive voters. Additionally, Colorado is one of only a handful of states that do not mail ballots to voters designated as inactive. The third point is critical when combined with the first point because it means that, under Secretary Gessler's proposed interpretation, registered voters are prevented from voting after missing a single election unless they submit to an onerous administrative process to "reactivate" their status.


Thus, there is not a relevant point of comparison in any other state; in any other state, there would be no possibility that a duly registered voter would not receive a mail ballot simply because she missed one election.

This makes you think that Colorado's apparent uniqueness looks pretty bad and may make moot Secretary of State Scott Gessler's argument that it's not fair for one county to send ballots to inactive voters, while another county doesn't send them.

As Brater wrote me, uniformity is an "important and a helpful goal," but: "A bad or illegal policy, however, is not desirable in one instance, much less uniformly."

He added:

Furthermore, under Colorado's election law, no scenario would provide for perfect uniformity. The law states that counties may conduct mail ballot elections, which means that in certain elections, some counties will send mail ballots and others will not. Under the circumstances, the best policy is to make sure as many registered and eligible voters are allowed to participate as possible.
 

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