01/10/2012 06:55 pm ET Updated Mar 11, 2012

Limiting Real People from Politics Hurts Us All

Thomas Paine said it best: "Voting is the right upon which all other rights depend."

The U.S. Constitution mentions voting rights more than any other right. But both locally and nationally, we are witnessing organized efforts to limit eligible voters from casting their ballots. The result is that those who are least likely to fight back are targeted: the elderly, the poor, the young and minorities.

 Since his election last January, Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler has been at the forefront of the battle on influencing the political landscape. In his short tenure, Gessler has proposed overreaching legislation to limit voting, made unsubstantiated claims of illegal voting, ordered county clerks not to send ballots to "inactive" eligible voters (even overseas military voters) and proposed rules that would allow unlimited special interest money to influence our elections.

Judges and the legislature have rejected these efforts. He has been told repeatedly that he does not have the legal authority to make many of his proposed changes.

Last month, Gessler held a public hearing on his proposed sweeping new campaign finance rules. These rules would create massive loopholes allowing corporate money into Colorado's elections, with no accountability or transparency. The proposed rules would eliminate requirements for political and issue committees to file public reports on the amount and sources of money spent in elections.
As a result, average voters, who cannot write big checks, would have their voice minimized in favor of special-interest money that could secretly underwrite campaign costs. Once again, his proposals would hit average people in favor of special interests.

Colorado is not the only state that has witnessed this trend, but it is at the forefront of the voting rights battle because it is a "swing" state in national elections and our secretary of state is arguably the most activist in the country.

 Next November, we will vote to elect the president, senators, representatives, state lawmakers and local elected officials. The more eligible voters who participate, the closer we get to President Lincoln's vision of a representative government that is "of the people, by the people, for the people."

The Colorado legislative staff told the secretary of state he is overstepping his boundaries and the courts have told the secretary of state he is overstepping his boundaries.

Citizens -- real people like you and your neighbors -- need to deliver the same message to prevent him from limiting the voice of real people in elections.