07 October 2011

Denver and Pueblo To Mail Ballots To Inactive Voters

Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler's request for a preliminary injunction preventing county clerks from sending ballots to validly registered voters who haven't cast a ballot in the last two years, despite the fact that state law does not require them to do so, has been denied by a Denver judge. The decision is merely preliminary, but like many preliminary rulings is probably more important than a ruling on the merits.

For most purposes, the 2011 election is one particular to each locality, particularly in Denver. School board elections and a Denver voter initiative related to paid sick leave requirements don't impact the rest of the state. But, the ruling makes it likely that something on the order of six thousand more voters in heavily Democratic Denver, and additional voters in Pueblo, will vote on Proposition 103, which increases the state income tax from 4.63% to 5.0%, and also rounds up the state sales tax, and earmarks the money for public education (K-12 or higher ed), an increase of about 15% over current spending. In a close election, this could easily make the difference between the defeat and passage of Proposition 103.

Gessler has been roundly criticized in Colorado and nationally for his efforts to prevent validly registered voters in Colorado from gaining easier access to ballots they have a right to cast anyway in the absence of clear statutory support for his stance in Colorado's election laws.

The ruling is another win for what academics call the Democracy Canon, which is the idea that laws should be interpreted to broaden rather than narrow the sufferage.

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