23 January 2008

Solving Colorado's Election Crisis

A number of changes to state law (a few of which would also require tweaks in the state constitution or federal law) can be done to solve the problems with how Colorado runs its elections.

They include:

Simplify voter registration and limit bad faith challenges.

* Maintain a statewide voter registration database to prevent multiple registrations for one person in the same state.

* Allow election day voter registration.

* Allow voter registration over the Internet in most cases.

* Presume that anyone who has ever previously been registered to vote in the United States, or has served in the United States military, or has served on a jury in the United States, who registers to vote signing a statement that they are age eighteen or older and a U.S. Citizen, is currently age 18 or older and is a U.S. citizen until proven otherwise.

* Require any challenges to voters who have been registered to vote for at least one year on any basis other than residency or current incarceration in a prison to be filed and served on the person challenged not less than six months prior to the election involved.

* Require challengers to compensate anyone unsuccesfully challenged to compensate the person challenges for the costs, reasonable attorneys' fees, and lost income suffered to rebut the challenge, plus an additional amount equal to compensation for one day as a juror in the state.

* Allow anyone who shows up at a polling place that does not appear to be that person's registered address to vote on a provisional ballot, and then if the polling place is later determined to be the wrong one, invalidate that person's provisional ballot only with regard to those races the person would not have been entitled to vote in had the person appeared at the proper polling place.

* Auomatically send a deregisration notice in the paperwork for new inmates at state prisons.

* Allow parolees to vote, thereby simplifying the process of purging voter lists of felons and reviewing eligibility to vote when processing voter registration. Under this rule, any U.S. citizen resident who can show up at a polling place can legally vote. This also encourages parolees to integrate themselves back into society.

* Limit to a civil fine the penalty for negligently voting when not allowed by law to do so.

Improve mail-in ballot procedures and mandate hybrid elections.

* Send every active registered voter a mail-in ballot in every election, but allow anyone who is shown to have had a ballot sent to them by mail which is not marked as received to vote at the polls without having to present the mail-in ballot allegedly sent to them on election day. Mail ballots received on election day would be held until after the polls are closed and not counted until checked against the list of people who voted in person that day.

* Use envelopes to both deliver and return mail-in ballots that are large enough to eliminate the need to fold the ballot, using multiple pages of ballots if necessary.

* Mandate prepayment of return postage for mail-in ballots.

* Place someone on an inactive voter registration list only if the person has been registered to vote for nine or more years, and (i) the person has not voted any election or particpated in any causus in the last nine years, (ii) mail addressed to the voter at the registered address from election officials has been returned as undeliverable, (iii) a change of address form is filed by the person with the post office, or (iv) an election official has determined that the person no longer resides at the address after physically appearing at the address and obtaining affirmative evidence that the person no longer resides at that address.

Soften the bite of identification and residency requirements.

* Allow alternative options for proving identification other than a state ID or driver's license. Allow voters who have no proof of identification at all to cast provisional ballots then establish their identity after the fact.

* Provide state IDs free of charge to people who do not have driver's licenses and have the identification bureacracy make home calls to provide ID to people who can't easily come to a driver's license bureau.

Accomodate voters with special needs more intelligently.

* Shorten ballots by printing each ballot entirely in a single language, and then allowing voters, when they register to vote (or at any time thereafter) to designate a preferred ballot language. This also has the virtue of making it far less expensive to accomodate non-English speakers who are small in number in a jurisdiction.

* Establish a state office for assisting local governments in translating election documents into languages other than English, for every language in which there are at least 50 requests statewide for a ballot language.

* Allow governments to comply with the ADA for election purposes by allowing them to have at least one ADA compliant location in every county and every state house district where anyone who wishes may vote without an advanced request for accomodations on the same basis that they could if they voted in their precinct.

Certify voting equipment early.

* Require voting equipment to be certified long before the elections in which it will be used.

Shorten the ballot.

* Exclude uncontested races from the ballot to simplify the ballot, even if this means that the write-in option is sacrificed. If there are no ballot issues or contested candidate elections on a given primary or general election day in a particular jurisdiction, cancel that election entirely for the affected precincts and notify voters in those precincts of that fact in advance by postcard.

* Do not allow ballot issues or non-partisan races to appear on the ballot in partisan primary elections.

* Find an alternative to automatic retention elections to determine if judges should be retained in office, a process that requires a massive amount of electoral system energy, while retaining 99% of judges. There are better ways to screen judicial performance that don't impose such as huge burden on the electoral system, such as allowing recall elections from time to time when there is actually a problem with a judge, or requiring some level of dissent (perhaps two people, or one-third of the members) on the committee that votes to recommend or not recommend retention of a judge before an election is held.

* Stop electing the state treasurer, county treasurers, county coroners, and county surveyors, all of whom have ministerial responsibilities amenable to civil service examinations or a merit based interview process, rather than policy making authority. Contrary to the beliefs of the early 20th century progressives, insisting that someone be a politician to hold an office is not a good way to assure that they will be honest and independent.

* Stop electing the members of the University of Colorado Board of Regents and instead find an alternate way to select the members of that Board as we do for similar boards of all other higher educational institutions in the state.


Seth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Seth said...


* Mandate prepayment of postage for mail-in voter registration forms.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

Great idea!

Anonymous said...

Now that I've found your blog I am hooked.

The only recommendation you make that I am not sure about is allowing people to register to vote over the internet.

The government and even financial institutions seem to have trouble securing transactions.

I am not sure what the risk is of internet voter registration, except that of possible hackers getting into the main database.

Its an intriging idea though.

Another possible problem not mentioned on your blog: does your state require people's personal information on the registration form to be an exact match with the social security database and the DMV? If so, then you may be in for even more trouble.

We call this the "no match no vote" rule/law, and it prevents people from being registered.
They show up at the polls thinking they can vote, but the registration database keeps them out because of clerical errors etc.

If you set up a way to receive updates of your blog, please sign me up.

My email is joyce at ncvoter.net

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

Ken Gordon's bill on Internet voter registration addresses lots of the problems identified. You can receive updates by subscribing to the RSS feed.