Colorado Public Radio’s Caitlyn Kim reports today on the push from Democratic members of Congress from Colorado and Secretary of State Jena Griswold to encourage other states to adopt our state’s highly successful–and much safer from a social distancing perspective–mail ballot election system:
“If we do not act as a nation very quickly, Americans who are Republicans, Democrats, and Independents will all be faced with the question: ‘Do I go into a crowded polling location and risk my health, or do I sit home and not vote?’” said Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, who has been talking up the Colorado model of all-mail voting in recent months.
Moving to all-mail voting takes money, for everything from new machinery to postage. Congress did earmark $400 million in the CARES Act to help with the 2020 elections, money states could use for these efforts. But the Election Assistance Commission, which distributes the funds, said states only get the money they put up a match 20 percent out of their own budgets. It’s a tough ask when many states are looking to slash spending this year amid the coronavirus-related recession.
Democratic Rep. Joe Neguse of Boulder has introduced legislation to get rid of the match requirement. He said it’s a vestige from an earlier election funding bill and not something Congress ever intended to include in the CARES Act.
It’s important to start with a reminder that nothing being proposed at the federal level by Colorado lawmakers or anyone else that we know of would mandate the use of mail ballots in states that don’t want to adopt the system. Rep. Joe Neguse’s legislation, accompanied in the Senate with a bill from Colorado’s senior Sen. Michael Bennet, and GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, is about providing funding for mail ballots for states that want to make the switch.
There is a problem, of course. President Donald Trump, facing a significant possibility of being defeated in the November election, has seized on mail ballots as a way to preemptively undermine legitimacy of the election in the event he loses–despite an absence of any evidence that mail ballots result in a higher rate of either error or mischief than any other method.
The night-and-day difference between Trump’s alarm over mail ballots and Colorado’s uncontroversial success implementing them is putting local Republicans in a very difficult position. Sen. Cory Gardner, who won his seat in 2014 in the first general election test of Colorado’s new mail ballot system, knows perfectly well that mail ballots work.
But as one of Trump’s closest allies, he’s not able–or willing–to say so:
Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, a couple of weeks after the passage of the CARES Act, said that it should be a state decision.
“Washington, D.C. should not run the state’s elections,” he told Politico. “If a state determines that’s the way it wants to go, a state should make that decision.”
Well folks, that’s exactly what Colorado Democrats are proposing! This is not about forcing mail ballots on states that don’t want them. It’s about exporting Colorado’s success to states that do–and if that doesn’t ring like a line from a Gardner re-election commercial, what does?
Don’t hold your breath of course. As long as Trump needs this allegation in his back pocket for November, we expect Gardner will stay muzzled on the matter of mail ballots. And we all hope, though for very different reasons, that the margin in November will be big enough to render these questions moot.