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Columnist Can't Cite Evidence That Election-Day Registration Favors Dems

05/06/2013 11:14 am ET | Updated Jul 06, 2013

In the Denver Post, former State Senate President John Andrews wrote that if Colorado has election-day voter registration, as proposed in the election-modernization bill winding its way through the State Legislature, Democrats would "presto" have "tilted the electoral playing field permanently their way. Republican chances for regaining power and repealing any of this stuff will fade."

Presto? As in presto-change-o?

The "presto" part I get, because the new law would give people the opportunity to register to vote, presto, upon presenting themselves (and proper documents) at a polling center through Election Day. It would also give every voter the chance to, presto, vote with a mail-in ballot as well as the option of, presto, voting in person at vote centers.

But the "change-o" part baffles.

How is same-day registration going to change elections in favor of Democrats? Experts who've studied the topic, even a guy like Curtis Gans who's been associated with right-leaning institutions, agree that same-day registration doesn't favor one party over the other. And they say fraud is not a problem in a place like Colorado.

I couldn't find any evidence that election-day voter registration would make the electoral playing field go blue -- or black with fraud.

So I was excited to hear about the evidence Andrews had to support his column.

"I have not done research on it," he told me.

I was crushed.

But that doesn't stop Andrews from saying: "Same-day registration is going to make the process of voting more emotion-driven and less reliably honest, and that favors Democrats."

"Democrats are a lot better at finding people who sign up on that basis [with same-day registration], and some may be legal voters and some might not be," Andrews said, adding that he doesn't mean to "demonize anyone" because "people have different opinions."

So, I asked Andrews, your view is based on your experience here in Colorado?

Yes, he said, along with his trust in Secretary of State Scott Gessler and former State Sen. Mark Hillman, who share Andrews' "alarm."

If you talk to Andrews repeatedly, as I have over the years, you know that he usually takes a conversation about a slice of public policy, like election-day registration, and broadens it to discussion about human motivations or political philosophy. It's fun, but sometimes it scares you.

In this case, Andrews said he doesn't think Colorado should go to "great lengths to turn everybody out to vote."

"People who demonstrate what economists call 'rational ignorance,' I don't want those people voting," he said.

"I'm a believer that voting should be more deliberative."

Democrats, he said, are more inclined to be "emotional" about a political campaign or "snowed by an ad campaign," while Republicans, he says are more "fact-based."

Thus he believes election-day registration favors Democrats, and my point that there no evidence to support his position didn't seem to bother Andrews at all.