Voters shortly after 6 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 8, 2022, visited the mobile polling location at the Emily Griffith Technical College in downtown Denver. (Quentin Young/Colorado Newsline)
Lawmakers are looking to expand what financial details candidates must disclose, improve automatic voter registration on tribal lands and require faster upload of ballot cure data, among other provisions, in an election-related measure introduced at the Colorado Legislature on Tuesday.
“We have, I would say, one of the best election systems in the country. It’s proven to be very accessible. It’s proven to be very secure. But obviously we can always make improvements, and so just about every year I introduce a bill to make those small improvements,” Senate President Steve Fenberg, a Boulder Democrat, told reporters Tuesday.
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Senate Bill 23-276 was drafted in coordination with stakeholders including the secretary of state’s office and county clerks.
One provision of the bill would work to improve voter access on tribal lands by expanding the state’s automatic voter registration system to include lists provided by tribal councils. It would be the first program of its type in the country. Right now, eligible voters are automatically registered to vote when they interact with the DMV.
Additionally, there would be more places to vote in person on tribal lands, both before and on Election Day.
“Hopefully it will increase access and participation among Native folks in Colorado,” Fenberg said.
In the 2022 general election, there were 688 active voters living on Southern Ute tribal land in La Plata County and 1,162 active voters living on Ute Mountain Ute tribal land in Montezuma County, according to the secretary of state’s office.
The bill also aims to increase access for other potentially underrepresented voters by increasing the number of drop boxes and voting centers on college campuses.
Another provision in the bill would expand and clarify what personal finance information candidates need to disclose so voters are more aware of potential conflicts of interest. Candidates and elected officials would need to report their income and the sources of that income, which mirrors the requirement for members of Congress. Elected officials who are consultants would need to list people who contract with them.
It would also make those personal finance disclosures publicly available online. Currently they are available through a Colorado Open Records Act request.
“I’ve long waited to take this on. Right now, it doesn’t seem like the personal finance disclosures for candidates really hit the mark in terms of providing voters and interested folks the information it is intended to provide,” Fenberg said.
The bill would also update the timeline for ballot counting. Large counties with more than 10,000 active voters would need to start counting ballots at least four days before Election Day. Supporters say that will result in clerks being able to publish results faster. Those large counties would also need to update data for ballots that have been cured — or fixed for an error, often a signature discrepancy — every 24 hours.
“That means campaigns will see that someone cured or hasn’t cured their ballot, rather than continuing to call someone who cured it days and days ago,” Fenberg said.
In the weeks after Election Day last year, people from the campaigns for Rep. Lauren Boebert and Adam Frisch hounded voters on certain counties’ cure lists, as the race was extremely close.
The bill would also update the funding formula for local election administration and allow the use of digital IDs for in-person voting.
It is set for its first committee hearing on Thursday in the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.
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