To: Colorado Senate Democrats – urgent for 3rd reading of HB 15-1130

Did the Colorado Senate really vote today for unrestricted internet voting and other unregulated means of electronic return and late mail ballot return of voted ballots for all municipal voters? Yes, the Senate passed HB 15-1130 on second reading without debate.

This while national experts are writing you letters on the riskiness of electronic return of voted ballots.

HB 15-1130’s provisions are bound for failure. The bill starkly reveals several designed-in failures of the Colorado legislative process. Dangerously defective process leads to disastrous enacted legislation. It is well past time for citizens to publicly acknowledge what must be called out as self-serving corruption among our governing institutions and their paid lobbyists and public interest non-profits who apparently support government special interests as well. HB 15-1130 was written by incumbent officials and their lobbyists for the benefit of incumbent elected officials. This legislation degrades election law that empowers elected officials.

HB 15-1130 is a bill with several hidden agendas. It apparently quietly originated in the office of Secretary of State Scott Gessler and has been presented as a bill by legislators who seem not aware of the consequences of its language and who will not take the time to investigate when these are pointed out. In the past week, they have ignored expert letters on the subject.

HB 15-1130 is not what its title purports, as I pointed out in an email to House State Affairs in February. Perhaps in some kind of reaction, amendments from unknown sources were quickly added to the bill after public testimony was closed. These amendments sloppily made reference to Title 1, Article 8.3, without actually creating the legal framework for their execution.

Worse, under Title 1 and not Title 31 (Municipal Code), the UOCAVA process is explained and implemented by SOS rules that have no effect on a municipal election. UOCAVA process for Title 1 elections is monitored by the SOS who claims to have no jurisdiction over a municipal election. So even if Article 8.3 were made effective for municipal elections, and HB 1130 does not even do that, the result would not be effective without the missing SOS oversight.

The equivalent of effective SOS rules must be included in statute for the municipal law to work with UOCAVA. With only glancing reference to UOCAVA process, this bill is miles away from such a solution–so far away that designated election officials of the relatively few under-2,000 resident statutory municipalities affected by it will find it impossible to implement. Why? Well, lack of funds, lack of understanding what it means, and the susceptibility to litigation for failing to follow an un-implementable law. Then consider the risks that are inherent in electronic return of voted ballots combined with vague loopholes on return of mail-in ballots.

This HB 1130 is so far off the mark it is literally incredible. It conveys lack of credibility.

Democrats ought to be making up the usual chorus of no votes objecting to what amount to sloppily executed Republican intentions. It is not meaningful that token Democrats seem to have been superficially convinced to co-sponsor. And judging from the expedited passage in the Senate on second reading today, tomorrow is the very last chance for the Senate, in fact for the entire Colorado legislature to take a stand of sanity against this bill.

Some of us in the election quality advocacy community will be immediately moving to a veto campaign with the message not that the Republicans are off base, but instead the entire legislature has gone off its rocker in giving all the voters in municipalities unfettered options to use any form of electronic transmission or late return of ballots.

And, by the way, the bill also drains coffers of municipal candidates who would like to unseat incumbents. They will need much more money to execute a campaign of twice the length, and likewise with recall efforts.

The bill is a golden bone handed to incumbent elected officials though it is being advertised as a supposedly much needed crutch for military voters.  Only a handful of military or overseas voters will likely see any advantage from this bill, while local election officials will be scratching their heads wondering how to implement these requirements or going to town with their own interesting and risky ideas.

This bill should be laid over until past Sine Die. Its real agendas should be exposed. Its justifiable intentions should be realized with proper drafting carefully thought out and well vetted by opposing interests. This HB 15-1130 should be replaced with language to accomplish the goals with reasonable cost and without detrimental effect on campaigns, election quality, and even on the budgets of local election jurisdictions.

Please, please take note of this warning.

Election bills are not accumulating quality as they are written in secret and pass through the false tolerance of cynical legislative kill committees.

Opportunism regarding legislative process inevitably prescribes failures of legislative leadership to listen to their constituents and outside experts and even bill sponsors at times. That is the only explanation for second reading passage of HB 1130 while testimony from outside and inside Colorado is pouring in about the damaging effects of the bill.

For ten years I have been watching and attempting to participate in the bill creation process for elections. My repeated impressions are of shock and awe at the way the public interest is consistently mowed down by the special interests of government and sometimes other specially protected groups like the military and more justifiably the disability community.

I have watched time and time again the extremely limited, almost token public portion of the process of bill-making ignore the well-researched and well-informed testimony of citizens who are participating in the process without financial compensation. Citizens testify without even the limited benefits of respect that comes from elected office or employment by government or some respected non-profit. All our opponents seem to have some imprimatur of credibility that may not be deserved.

Democrats, it is time to push to regain quality that would lead to respect for both elections and legislative process. Please vote against HB-15-1130 on third reading.

Harvie Branscomb

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Original letter written to House State Affairs leadership and sponsor:

From: Harvie Branscomb
To: Su Ryden
Cc: Elena Nunez

Also to: Dan Nordberg

Date: Feb. 8 2015
Subject: election bill 1130 — what is it for?

Why is this bill titled as if it is going to help access for military voters to vote when it does not have any language to that effect?

What it appears to be is an attempt to restrict access to the ballot for candidates by requiring much earlier lead times for nomination and eliminating a vacancy process.

Isn’t it bordering on unethical to fabricate a bill in this misleading format?

Is there a benefit to voters to be obtained here? I don’t see it.

I see only unnecessary convenience for officials at the expense of candidates’ ability to access the ballot.

Perhaps this bill was intended to trick people who only look at titles. I was almost tricked myself.

Please reconsider the true effects of this bill and amend or PI.

Harvie Branscomb