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Legislative Highlights

2021 Boulder County Elections Legislative Highlights

Every year, Boulder County Elections staff closely participates in the Colorado legislative process. In the months leading up to the legislative session (which takes place typically every January to May), our office provides ideas and recommendations to improve our election processes to our state legislators either directly and/or in combination with our fellow clerks through the statewide Colorado County Clerks Association (CCCA). Throughout the session, our office tracks legislation and provides feedback, recommended changes, and at times, testimony for and against bills when relevant and impactful. Boulder County Elections evaluates legislative changes and impacts through a lens of improving the voting experience and strengthening the election process or our collective statewide election security posture. Here is a highlight of some of the bills we tracked and participated in this 2021 legislative cycle.

Colorado Votes Act SB21-250
Status: Signed into law June 21
Summary of Legislation: This bill amends various laws related to Colorado elections, including allowing voters to register to vote online using their social security number; clarifies electioneering rules at or near Vote Centers; allows for earlier election judge visits to health care facilities to help residents to vote; updates registration and other requirements for political party held precinct caucuses, county assemblies, and vacancy committees; prohibits placing new ballot drop boxes at police stations; changes certain ballot access requirements for candidates; clarifies procedures for challenges to a person’s right to vote; requires risk-limiting audits for recall elections, along with additional various other technical election changes.
Action taken: Supported and worked with CCCA to provide ideas and modifications to strengthen legislation during legislative session.

Why: Each year the Colorado elections community identifies opportunities to innovate and continue improving our election model to put voters first. This bill is an example of incremental but necessary election law changes to improve and fine-tune our Colorado voting model.

Ballot Access for Voters with Disabilities SB21-188
Status: Signed into law May 21
Summary of Legislation: This bill allows voters with state-specified disabilities to access and use the same secure online ballot access portal to receive and return their ballot as our Colorado military and overseas voters can use if they choose. Previously, voters with a disability could only receive their ballot electronically but were required to print their ballot to return it. Voters with disabilities choosing to use this method of receiving and/or returning their ballot through this portal, must also include a signed affidavit or a copy of their ID.
Action taken: Monitored and remained neutral.

Why: This was a complicated position for Boulder County Elections and we ultimately ended up in a neutral position. We believe it is important to put voter experience first and provide inclusive service, especially for populations historically excluded from our elections. We know that voters with disabilities face unique obstacles to election participation. However, we are equally committed to ensuring the security of our elections, and DHS, EAC, NIST, and CISA – all national agencies charged with protecting our elections infrastructure, have emphasized the security risks associated with electronic ballot return. Thus, we must balance accessibility with security when evaluating changes to election practices. Our team is currently developing plans to implement this bill successfully as well as reviewing how we can best serve voters with disabilities moving forward – including partnerships with disability advocates and organizations in our community.

Multilingual Ballot Access for Voters HB21-011
Status: Signed into law June 28
Summary of Legislation: Beginning in the fall of 2022, this bill requires counties begin providing multilingual ballot access for certain minority languages if certain spoken language criteria in the community is met. This multilingual ballot access includes publishing a minority language sample ballot and the ability to produce an in-person minority language ballot upon request. The designation of which minority languages and which counties this bill is applicable to will be determined using the most recent decennial census information. Additionally, the Secretary of State must establish a minority language hotline to provide voters access to qualified translators or interpreters and provide guidelines to the counties for translation.
Action taken: Supported and provided remote testimony (testimony starts at approx. 1:16 p.m.)

Why: Ballot language is already unduly complicated for all voters, and this problem is compounded for voters who do not have advanced English proficiency. Every eligible citizen has the right to vote, and this bill provides these voters the opportunity to either review a sample ballot in the language they are most comfortable reading and/or vote on a translated ballot.

Ranked Choice Voting in Nonpartisan Elections HB21-1071
Status: Signed into law June 28
Summary of Legislation: Beginning in 2023, this bill allows a municipality to request that certain contests for non-partisan offices be conducted as part of a coordinated election with their local county clerk’s office in a Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) fashion (also known as Instant Runoff for single winner contests). This allows voters to rank their candidate preferences in order (under rules set forth by the Secretary of State). By the end of March 2022, the secretary of state is required to set rules establishing the minimum system requirements and specifications for a voting system to be used in an election using ranked choice voting as well as other rules around system use, licensing, and other process and technical requirements.
Action taken: Provided early feedback to initial bill sponsor. Continued to support and provided written testimony in support with modifications.

Why: In 2020, City of Boulder voters voted to elect their mayor using Ranked Choice Voting beginning in 2023. Because our office is committed to supporting the will of the voters, Boulder County Elections worked closely with Representative Kennedy from the beginning on this legislation. Our goal with supporting this bill was to ensure that the framework for counties to conduct RCV elections beginning in 2023 was put in place at a statewide level with rigorous voting system guidelines and technical guidance and support from the state.

Election Recount Request HB21-1053
Status: Postponed Indefinitely (Did not pass)
Summary of Legislation: This bill would have added a registered elector to the list of people who can request a recount when one is not otherwise required. An interested party or registered elector who requests a recount can also specify that the requested recount be conducted as a manual recount of the voter-verified paper records in the election, in which case, the election official is required to conduct the recount in accordance with that request. Additional recount request provisions also included.
Action taken: Opposed. Provided written testimony against.

Why: This bill does not increase election transparency or accountability, but instead focuses on manual recount techniques which are time-intensive and resource-heavy while not providing adequate timelines to conduct them properly. Additionally, existing statue already provides adequate automatic and requested recount provisions.

Improve Public Confidence in Election Validity SB21-007
Status: Postponed Indefinitely (Did not pass)
Summary of Legislation: Under this bill, voting in person would have been limited to a 7-day period before an election. It also instituted procedures for voters to request a mail ballot, but ballots would not be sent automatically. It would have required that all ballots be counted not later than the day of the election among other provisions.
Action taken: Opposed. Provided written testimony against.

Why: This bill would put in place voting hurdles for the majority of voters. After being automatically sent ballots in the mail for the last 6 plus years (over 10 elections for most voters), voters would now have to request their ballot be mailed to them. This bill represents voter suppression in legislative form. Additionally, it requires ballots be counted by election night, disenfranchising military and overseas voters.

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