CO probably only state where registered voter isn’t guaranteed mail ballot after missing 1 election

(Keep after ’em, Jason! – promoted by ProgressiveCowgirl)

It seems crazy that in Colorado, you won’t necessarily get a ballot in the mail, like other good and decent registered voters, if you missed voting in just one election

I haven’t seen much info reported locally on how other states deal with this issue.

So I got in touch with the Brennan Center for Justice, which got a bunch of national attention for its recent report about the menu of new rules around the country that tighten “restrictions on voting,” and it looks like Colorado is unique in its treatment of “inactive” voters.

Jonathan Brater, a Law Clerk with the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, wrote me that Colorado is one of just a handful of states that don’t mail ballots to all “inactive” voters, and Colorado rushes voters into the “inactive” category faster than any other state.

So, Brater points out that “in any other state, there would be no possibility that a duly registered voter would not receive a mail ballot simply because she missed one election.”

Our current research is not yet complete, but so far reveals Colorado is unique in a number of very relevant ways: Colorado is the only state we have identified where a person becomes inactive if they miss just one election.  Also, our research has not identified any other state that makes a statutory distinction among different classes of inactive voters. Additionally, Colorado is one of only a handful of states that do not mail ballots to voters designated as inactive. The third point is critical when combined with the first point because it means that, under Secretary Gessler’s proposed interpretation, registered voters are prevented from voting after missing a single election unless they submit to an onerous administrative process to “reactivate” their status.

Thus, there is not a relevant point of comparison in any other state; in any other state, there would be no possibility that a duly registered voter would not receive a mail ballot simply because she missed one election.    

This makes you think that Colorado’s apparent uniqueness looks pretty bad and may make moot Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s argument that it’s not fair for one county to send ballots to inactive voters, while another county does send them.

As Brater wrote me, uniformity is an “important and a helpful goal,” but:

“A bad or illegal policy, however, is not desirable in one instance, much less uniformly.”

He added:

Furthermore, under Colorado’s election law, no scenario would provide for perfect uniformity.  The law states that counties may conduct mail ballot elections, which means that in certain elections, some counties will send mail ballots and others will not.  Under the circumstances, the best policy is to make sure as many registered and eligible voters are allowed to participate as possible.


13 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. ProgressiveCowgirl says:

    Something is going on with Soapblox. My promotion tag is on this but it’s not promoted.

    • Colorado Pols says:

      This is a good opportunity to explain a common issue–with regular user accounts, in most cases a post is taken off the homepage if edited by that author after it’s promoted. We’re not sure if that’s a bug or a “feature” to protect us from exploitation, but everybody posting (or promoting) a diary should be aware of this.

      Also, in some cases we will move a post down to its appropriate location based on time of posting–not this time, but if a post is promoted well after it was written. We’ve seen this cause a little confusion in the past, be assured it’s not an editorial decision when we do it. It can be confusing to readers to see content at the top of the page from previous days without a clear indication it’s out of order.

  2. BlueCat says:

    Can’t wait to hear why Gessler is still so convinced, in the presence of so much evidence to the contrary and none in support, that protecting us from voter fraud due to sending ballots to voters who miss an election is such a dire necessity it over-rides what should be the goal;  doing all we can to encourage  maximum voter participation. He probably won’t care to comment but we can probably count on the Borg to leap to his defense. But my …ummmm…. wild guess (why do such wild ideas come to mind?) is that maximum legit voter participation is the last thing the Borg wants.

  3. Alexei says:

    I used to work in an elections office in Ohio.

    Many states had a mechanism to prevent mail ballots to people who miss a general election, or perhaps only a presidential one. It was a mechanism to make sure people were not registered in more than one county at a time.

    Since HAVA required statewide voter data bases, most states got rid of these provisions with their legislation to comply with HAVA provisions.

    It appears to be an overdue oversight in Colorado. Hopefully the recent exploitation of this oversight by SoB Gessler, will illustrate to the legislature the need to change it.


  4. Middle of the Road says:

    and nifty ways to suppress the vote. It’s happening everywhere.

    A new South Carolina voter registration act is currently under review by the Department of Justice to see whether the requirement of a photo ID in order to vote is a violation of the Voting Rights Act.

    Voters most affected? African Americans. Surprise, surprise.

    Similar laws exist in Indiana and Georgia, while four other states also passed new measures this year requiring photo identification in order to cast a ballot.

    • BlueCat says:

      without cars or computers to get through several layers of bureaucracy, many involving large expenditures for a senior on a tiny income, in order to exercise the right to vote. What on earth is the fuss about? It should be snap.

  5. dwyer says:

    What the boyles crowd did was to create significant doubt as to what constitutes a legitimate birth certificate….some people may be so confused that they will simply not attempt to secure a birth certificate if they think the one that they have doesn’t meet talk show criteria.

    Some people may be afraid that they will be deported, even if they were born in the US  What this all does is scare people away…just afraid to pursue their legitimate rights….

    This is why the democrats/president’s failure to mount a defense to the “full faith and credit” clause of the constitution may come back to haunt them in 2012.

  6. RegisteredRepublican says:

    I am certainly not opposed to mailing out ballots to “inactive” voters, but it should apply to all 64 counties.  Allowing county clerks to decide whether, or not, they will do it does not make for an even playing field for any candidate or ballot issue.

    Secretary of State Scott Gessler was right to challenge the the matter in court.  The judge should have ordered all 64 county clerks to mail out ballots to “inactive” voters.    

    This recent episode of only nine counties choosing to do it looks really bad.  Hopefully, the state legislature will remedy this inconsistency next year.

    • After all, it works on the principle of localized control, which most Republicans think is the ideal method of government.

      And having the judge order all 64 counties to distribute mail-in ballots to inactive voters is not within the intent of the law.  If he had done so, he would be an activist judge making law and not a jurist adjudicating the law.

      But by all means let’s work together and get the legislature to fix this inane standard next year and deliver mail-in ballots to all voters that have deliverable addresses.  To do anything else is to perpetuate an unequal standard in voting rights.

  7. Rikosato says:

    f these people are too lethargic to care in the first place, I’m not sure we are better off with them participating. Most likely they are in the bottom 50% that pay no taxes and would only vote to extend their welfare benefits further crippling the system.

    Better for them just to stay home in front of the TV.

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