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Voter registration plan opposed

Former Moffat County clerk says initiative could

Josh Nichols

Want to vote, but missed the deadline to register in your new home after moving?

Amendment 30 supporters say their November ballot initiative would ensure your voice is heard.

But several local opponents, led by a former Moffat County Clerk and Recorder, say the measure has significant fraud potential.

Jessie Rowley, who worked 22 years with Moffat County, with the final eight as clerk and recorder overseeing elections, has lined up with Coloradoans for Fair Elections, which urges a no vote this fall.

“It’s not a partisan issue,” said Rowley, a Republican who is now retired. “It could be devastating to the system.”

Amendment 30 which is bankrolled by Boulder multi-millionaire Jared Polis, who made his fortune with Internet greeting cards would allow voters to register and cast ballots on Election Day at individual polling precincts.

Local election officials would just need a valid Colorado driver’s license, or “other appropriate documentation that the secretary of state shall approve,” according to the ballot question.

Currently, a voter that changes addresses between elections must re-register to vote in his or her new home 30 days prior to an election, allowing time to check possible fraud.

If approved, the change would become effective in January of 2004.

The state’s general assembly “shall adopt all necessary additional protections against election fraud,” the ballot question reads under the heading of “enforcement.”

Opponents worry about a lack of specifics on that last question.

“We’ll have no means of checking to see whether these people have voted elsewhere,” Rowley said.

Rowley also said the costs of providing computers for real-time checks in every county proving people are who they claim to be, and if they’ve voted elsewhere make the initiative impossible. Not to mention the cost of training election judges to use the equipment at a time when county and state budgets are already strapped.

“What if the power goes down?” said Rowley, who also notes some of Moffat County’s 13 polling precincts currently don’t have Internet access.

Heads of the Republican and Democratic parties in Moffat County have their own questions.

Tim Christensen, chair of the Moffat County Democrats, said he would vote against the amendment.

Tim Jantz, the county’s Republican Party chair, said he is opposed to the question.

Christensen and Jantz said they did not believe the initiative would increase voter turnout.

“There will be people who will not register to vote no matter what you do to them,” Christensen said.

Dave Minshall, communications director with the Yes on 30 campaign, suggested that the two dominant political parties stand to lose most from passage of the initiative, which is before California voters this fall in a similar form.

“Switching registration in both parties is about a wash, but independents gain in the six states that have this,” Minshall said.

Wyoming, Idaho, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Maine and New Hampshire already allow same-day registration and voting at precincts, he said.

Minshall insists plenty of safeguards exist in the system, which is aimed at people who have recently moved. Currently, new arrivals can pick up voter registration forms, fill them out, mail them in and never meet an election judge. Fraud is reduced, he argues, when people are brought before election judges to register, produce identification, and, if need be, checked against the state’s registration database.

Added administrative costs and staff burdens are “very minimal,” he said, again citing other states’ experience.

Plus, he said, well-meaning people perhaps too busy to register would be included in the process, he said.

And there’s always the late campaign advertisements that could stir

action.

“It’s people’s nature to not get fired up on an issue until the last minute,” Minshall said.


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