The 2012 election cycle was the most successful in Colorado history. Through proactive management and innovative solutions, Colorado saw a jump in voter participation, had better election integrity than ever before, and saw far fewer election day problems.
Last week the Secretary of State's office published an official report on the 2012 election entitled "A Colorado Success Story." It details achievements that all Coloradans can be proud of.
First, voter turnout grew to record levels in Colorado, even as other states witnessed real decline. Specifically, Colorado's turnout increased almost two percent compared to the 2008 election, while turnout nationwide plummeted almost seven percent. Even other hotly contested battleground states saw a drop in turnout.
The overall result? In 2012, Colorado was top three among all states in turnout by eligible voters!
This increased turnout followed successful voter registration efforts that pushed registered voters to an all-time high in Colorado. My office sent postcards to nearly 750,000 unregistered residents, and we ran television, radio, newspaper and internet ads encouraging registration. We also reached Spanish speaking voters, using Spanish language media. This campaign helped increase our registration numbers by over 440,000 people — a 13.7 percent increase, well above normal population growth for four years.
As a former Army officer who served overseas during an election, I was particularly proud that our military and overseas turnout skyrocketed 65 percent, compared to 2008 levels. In this election we made it easy for military and overseas voters to access their ballot online for printing and mailing. That sped up delivery immensely. And we improved the online registration system to allow military and overseas voters to sign up online, eliminating postcards and the sometimes-unreliable foreign postal systems.
Second, Colorado saw fewer election day problems than in past years, even though we were a hotly contested battleground state. When necessary, the Secretary of State's office stepped in and helped manage county elections, and we immediately responded to problems and controversies in other counties. And our county election officials did a great job. We had shorter lines and easier voting than ever before — and certainly compared to a few other battleground states. And in 2012 my office deployed a consolidated election reporting system, so Coloradans could find all state results in one place. In fact, nearly 70,000 people used the system last November.
Finally, our election integrity is at an all-time high. Through our online registration system, nearly 250,000 Coloradans corrected their registration information, meaning more accurate voting rolls than ever before. And in the past three years, nearly 1,000 non-citizens have either voluntarily removed their names from our voting rolls or have been tagged as likely ineligible voters, following several state and federal database checks. Going forward, Colorado is now comparing its voter rolls with nearly two dozen other states for dual registrations – a number we expect to grow to 40 states by the end of 2013.
But even with these impressive successes, some in Colorado want to drastically change how we conduct our elections. One proposed change is election day registration, often called same-day registration. Election day registration allows people to vote on the same day they register. Unfortunately, this opens the door to fraud and error. And it creates huge problems for administering elections.
Indeed, experience in other states shows that election day registration is a real problem.
In Wisconsin during the 2004 presidential election, the Milwaukee Police Department verified that claims of thousands "of more ballots cast than voters recorded were found to be true." And a 68-page police report found "that the one thing that could eliminate a large percentage of fraud or the appearance of fraudulent voting in any given Election is the elimination of the On-Site or Same Day voter registration system."
Similarly in neighboring Minnesota, also a same-day registration state, a local watchdog group identified 113 convictions of felon voter fraud stemming from the state's 2008 election. It concluded "While some ineligible felon voters registered in advance of the election and should have been flagged for challenge, the overwhelming majority who evaded detection used Election Day Registration, which currently has no mechanism to detect or prevent ineligible voters."
And Colorado does not need same-day voter registration. Our voter turnout is among the best in the nation. Unlike other states that offer election day registration, Colorado offers voter registration online, at the Department of Motor Vehicles, at human service agencies, through the mail, and in person. Unlike other states, Colorado properly verifies the information of those who register to make sure our elections are protected.
As I meet with residents around the state, I hear calls for better protection — not less.
I want to make it easy to vote, but tough to cheat. The 2012 numbers show we're achieving great results in both areas. But by opening our system to illegal ballots, election day registration will end any hope of maintaining a balance in both areas.
The bottom line? Election Day registration isn't a fix to a problem. Rather, it's an open invitation to real problems in our elections.blog comments powered by Disqus