State Rep. Ron Hanks, a Penrose Republican, speaks to the House State, Civic, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee on March 14, 2022. (Faith Miller/Colorado Newsline)
A panel of state lawmakers soundly rejected a sweeping elections bill, proposed by a U.S. Senate candidate who’s repeatedly questioned the 2020 presidential election results.
The bill was sponsored by state Rep. Ron Hanks, a Cañon City Republican hoping to face off with U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, the Democrat who is up for reelection in November. Hanks was at the U.S. Capitol the day of the Jan. 6 insurrection, when supporters of former President Donald Trump stormed the halls of Congress. He also sued Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, as part of an effort to require a third-party “audit” of the 2020 election in Colorado.
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Hanks’ House Bill 22-1204 would have gotten rid of the state’s system of universal voting by mail, which has been the law in Colorado since 2013. Under the current system, ballots are mailed to all registered voters, who can return the ballot by leaving it in a drop box or mailing it to their county clerk’s office.
Under Hanks’ bill, voters instead would be required to vote in person on Election Day at a designated polling place unless they had requested an absentee ballot. All ballots would need to be counted by hand within 24 hours.
Voters would only be eligible for absentee ballots if they would be out of state on Election Day, if they were hospitalized or in a nursing home, if they were blind or visually impaired, or if they were serving the country overseas.
The bill would have required county clerks and recorders to designate one polling place in each precinct, prioritizing schools and government buildings. Voters would need to show a valid state-issued ID in order to cast their ballot.
In the 2021 general election, Colorado voters could leave their ballot in one of 405 drop boxes or vote in person at 147 voter service and polling centers throughout the state, according to an October statement from the secretary of state’s office. Statewide, 94% of voters turned in their mail ballot in 2020 and 98% did so in 2021, with the remaining 6% and 2%, respectively, choosing to vote in person.
There are more than 3,000 precincts in the state, and the number of registered voters in each precinct varies widely, ranging from fewer than 10 to more than 2,000, according to the secretary of state’s latest data. Hanks’ bill would charge county clerks with drawing “a convenient number” of new election precincts the year before each general election with no more than 1,500 voters in each.
Coloradans don’t currently have to present a state-issued ID when they vote in person. However, when they register to vote, they must submit one of several forms of identification. The list of options includes, among others: a valid state driver’s license, a valid pilot’s license from the Federal Aviation Administration, a valid employee identification card issued by a Colorado county, or a copy of a current utility bill showing the voter’s name and address.
Voter-rights advocates generally are against the idea of requiring voters to present identification at the polls. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, more than 1 in 10 U.S. citizens lacks government-issued photo ID. Voter ID laws disproportionately affect people of color, who are less likely than white people to have identification documents.
The House State, Civic, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee voted 9-2 to reject Hanks’ bill. Two Republicans, Reps. Mary Bradfield of Colorado Springs and Dan Woog of Erie, voted with Democrats, while Republican Reps. Rod Bockenfeld of Watkins and Patrick Neville of Castle Rock were the only two lawmakers to support advancing HB-1204.
Other Republican-led bills that were brought in response to unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud met their death at the hands of the Democratic majority on the committee earlier in the legislative session.
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