Democrats approve rule to allow lawmakers to avoid Colorado Capitol, cast votes remotely during coronavirus
With party-line votes, the General Assembly approved new rules Wednesday that allow lawmakers to cast votes remotely during a public health emergency, suspending the long tradition of requiring senators and representatives to appear in person to make their voices heard.
The new rules are expected to take effect for votes Thursday in the House and Senate chambers. House Majority Leader Alec Garnett, D-Denver, called it a “limited temporary change that allows for our colleagues to represent their districts, cast their votes and make sure their constituents are not voiceless.”
“This is new,” he continued. “This has not been done before in this chamber, but we are facing a 100-year health pandemic that has turned our lives upside down.”
The resolution introduced in each chamber spurred hours of heated debate as Republicans opposed remote voting and used it as a proxy to object to public health orders put in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Rep. Larry Liston, R-Colorado Springs, said the rule change appeared well intended but voters expected lawmakers to show up. “They expect us to be here and that the voting should be a matter of conviction not just a matter of convenience,” he said. “And yes, we have to make sacrifices even in difficult times, even if it puts us in a dangerous situation.”
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Liston compared lawmakers to soldiers storming the beach at Normandy to do their jobs despite the risk, and Rep. Richard Holtorf, an Akron Republican, suggested those who did not show at the Capitol were “AWOL,” which stands for absent without leave.
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