Why Not Do Better in Colorado Elections?

Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler made the rounds on conservative talk radio last week to stir up opposition to expected legislation that would give us more options when it comes to voting, stuff like providing a mail-in ballot for every eligible voter.

Basically, the legislation would make sure Colorado uses modern technology and efficient election procedures to give people more ways to cast a ballot and to participate in our elections. And Gessler wants to stop it.

Colorado already has "really good elections," Gessler said to conservatives in talk-radio land, bragging about Colorado's higher turnout than other states.

But why not do better? Even in a good year, almost one-third of the voting-age population in Colorado doesn't go to the polls.

And even if everyone voted, what's wrong with giving people safe and easy voting choices? The bill in the State Legislature not only mandates the mail-in option, but also allows us to drop off our ballots at service centers and, if pushing buttons is your thing, to vote in person on election day or prior to it.

Not to sound all high-minded, but isn't America about giving everyone a chance to have their voice heard at the ballot box? Isn't offering the best voting options and most efficient voter registration a baseline manifestation of that ideal?

It was supremely ironic to hear our state's top election official, who's in charge of encouraging people to vote, arguing against basic improvements in our election system.

Some friends and I tried to think of comparisons, and we came up with the notion of a top librarian insisting on hard-cover books only in libraries, rejecting alternatives such as e-books, large print, video, etc., and requiring people to reserve books in advance.

Or in terms of options, we thought of a Justice of the Peace only offering a civil union to a man and a women, without including an option for same-sex couples. I guess that's not quite the same, but still, it's equally unAmercian not to stand for inclusiveness.

On the radio Gessler said the folks who are trying to improve Colorado's election system are doing it for partisan gain.

But evidence suggests that voter conveniences, like registering and voting on election day, don't favor one party over the other. And as for Gessler's other allegation that this would lead to fraud in a place like Colorado, there isn't any evidence supporting him.

Election officials can determine, in real time, if people try to vote twice using different voting options. When you think about it, and you consider what computers manage to do in modern life, you understand that this should be a no brainer, even for a guy like Gessler.

And obviously, more voting options are needed in today's world, where people move frequently and need ways to register quickly at a new location and then vote.

But this goes to something much bigger. It's about strengthening our state at the entry point to democracy.

What are we if don't do everything possible, within safety constraints, to make our elections wide open to every citizen who wants to vote?