Colorado has worked hard to create smart, forward-thinking election laws and process, and now a bipartisan, presidential commission has validated our efforts and recommended similar reforms in all states. President Obama's State of the Union address this week circled back to election administration issues raised last year when he announced a bipartisan commission to consider solutions to long voting lines and other Election Day mishaps with the directive: "We can fix this, and we will." In this year's address, President Obama gave a brief nod to the commission's work urging federal and state lawmakers to "support these efforts" to reduce voter wait time to no more than 30 minutes and enhance voter turnout.
The Presidential Commission on Election Administration (PCEA), led by Bob Bauer, Obama campaign lawyer, and Ben Ginsberg, Romney campaign lawyer, held public hearings and collected information on the various election administration approaches across the country. Last week, the PCEA issued its final report with a series of recommendations to decrease wait times and improve voters' experiences.
Those seeking to implement the key PCEA recommendations need look no further than the Rockies. Denver, Colo., hosted the PCEA's only public meeting held west of the Mississippi in August 2013. Local clerks and Colorado's Secretary of State testified about recent changes to improve Colorado's voter registration and election experience. Now the PCEA's main recommendations for making registration and voting easier for citizens sound a lot like what we have here in Colorado.
Recommendation to adopt and increase use of online voter registration? Check. Colorado voters can register, change addresses, and check voter information online at any time. In order to keep those voter wait times on Election Day to pizza-delivery speed, the PCEA recommends the establishment of vote centers and expanded early vote opportunities both by mail and in-person. In Colorado, every registered voter receives a ballot in the mail and may choose to mail back that ballot, return it at a secure drop-off location, or vote in-person instead. Voter Service and Polling Centers are available in each county for at least 15 days leading into Election Day for voters to pick up ballots, vote in-person, update voter registration records, or register to vote.
Colorado's live "e-pollbooks" (another PCEA recommendation) assist in updating voter records online at each center in real time and improve election integrity. Some Colorado counties -- like Denver -- also use bar-code tracking systems for mail ballots on their way to and from voters through the postal service. The PCEA recommends such systems be used for voter verification that mailed ballots are received. Various advisory commissions at the state and county level in Colorado also work to ensure language and disability assistance to voters, as recommended by PCEA.
These are common-sense bipartisan recommendations that seek to enhance voters' experience and safeguard the right to vote. Increased voter participation should be a goal for everyone in our country -- it is the basis for our representative democracy. McCain's 2008 campaign lawyer, Trevor Potter, called Colorado's approach the "most promising new opportunity for bipartisan reform." The PCEA recommendations appear to agree. With our election modernization efforts, Colorado citizens have more to be proud of than just our Broncos.
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