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Just when you think things can’t get any more strange related to elections, they do. Across the country, dozens of bills are being introduced by an element of the Republican party, in multiple states, designed to limit voters’ access to ballots and to the election processes.

Tuesday afternoon here in Colorado, a bipartisan group of lawmakers took a stand against a Republican minority, to protect Colorado election integrity, and maintain voter access. In the process, they thwarted an attempt to limit Colorado’s much-heralded all-mail-in voting process

The bipartisan Colorado Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee acted to postpone indefinitely a bill that would threaten Colorado’s vote-by-mail system. The legislation, SB21-007, would pose a significant threat to Colorado’s election integrity by requiring voters to cast their ballots in person, and only allowing vote-by-mail if specifically requested by a voter.

“This bill is disguised as a provision to enhance election integrity, but in reality, it would result in the erosion of our safe, secure, and accessible electoral process,” said Senator Julie Gonzales (D-Denver), Chair of the State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee.

Colorado’s automatic vote-by-mail system is hailed by advocates nationwide as the gold standard of transparent and accessible elections. This bill would result in a serious reversal of the election process that has worked so well for so long, weakening democracy and silencing the voices of Colorado voters.

Chaffee County Clerk Lori Mitchell with staff members inside the spacious 2020 election vote tent Dan Smith photo

“This session, Democrats are introducing legislation that will ensure multilingual ballot access, implement ranked-choice voting in cities and counties if they desire, and ban county-level gerrymandering,” added Gonzales. “We should spend our time enhancing the great system that we have in place, rather than trying to find solutions to problems that only exist in the minds of people who have been addled by conspiracy theories.”

I’m glad it didn’t make it out of committee,” said Chaffee Clerk and Recorder Lori Mitchell. “It would have taken us backward and I am glad it died. There is an element that is trying to limit voting accessibility. We are the envy of all the states. Here in Colorado we have a great voting system; there is no finish line, we’re going to keep up access for voters, and election security.”

According to the Colorado Secretary of State, 94 percent of Coloradans returned a mail ballot in last November’s record-setting General Election. To burden voters with the task of requesting a mail-in ballot would significantly reduce participation and jeopardize Colorado’s record-high turnout, let alone likely add unnecessary expense to the state’s voting process.

“At New Era, we believe in democracy that represents the people—and that is why we strongly oppose SB21-007.” said a spokesperson for New Era Colorado. “As an organization that engages heavily in elections, we have worked over the years to bring more access to historically disenfranchised communities in Colorado. Last election, young people in Colorado shattered records—turning out to vote at 70 percent and making up 27 percent of the vote share. This bill would restrict access and create barriers to voting and disenfranchise Coloradans who should have their voices heard. As a state, we need to work to strengthen our democracy—not hinder it and take steps back.”

“Mi Familia Vota has worked tirelessly for years to ensure our communities, no matter their zip codes, race, or class are able to participate in our Democracy with safe and secure mail-in-ballots,” said Salvador Hernandez, Colorado State Director of Mi Familia Vota.  “Senate Bill 21-007 rolls back these efforts and protections, which would disenfranchise voters, especially Latinx and voters of color which is why we strongly oppose this bill.”

“With our current system, every eligible voter receives a ballot to their home, ensuring that Colorado leads the nation in voter turnout with safe, effective, and accessible elections. Our democracy is strongest when we all participate that’s why I oppose SB21-007 which creates an unnecessary burden on voters to request a mail-in ballot and will lower voter turnout as a whole” said Paul Lopez, Clerk and Recorder City and County of Denver.