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Democrats strike back at GOP voting measures

By Ivan Moreno & Nicholas Riccardi

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 10:08 a.m. HST, May 20, 2013

DENVER » In a bitter fight, Colorado Democrats recently muscled through the Statehouse a massive elections reform bill that allows voters to register up until Election Day and still cast their ballots.

It's the latest — and most substantial — development in a nationwide Democratic Party effort to strike back at two years of Republican success in passing measures to require identification at polling places and purge rolls of suspect voters.

Democratic-controlled states like California, Connecticut and Maryland also all have sought to make it easier to cast a ballot as late as possible. They recently passed versions of same-day voter registration measures, which traditionally help younger and poorer voters — the sort who lean Democratic.

Undaunted, the GOP is aggressively fighting the efforts.

Maine Republicans tried to roll back same-day registration in 2011 but were unsuccessful. And Montana Republicans hope to rescind their state's same-day registration through a ballot referendum next year.

In the decades-old battle between Republicans and Democrats over voting rights, same-day voter registration long had been a relatively bipartisan matter, a staple in places like Idaho, New Hampshire and Wyoming. But it has become a divisive issue in recent years, as the country has grown more polarized and as both major political parties seek to change voting laws in ways that will be beneficial to them.

"There's been more partisanship over the last half-decade as the voting wars heated up and as groups spent more energy on process and the nuts and bolts of how elections are run," says Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine. "Colorado is ground zero right now for these battles."

Colorado is the 11th state to allow same-day registration, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Compared with previous years, Myrna Perez at the Brennan Center for Social Justice at New York University said that in the aftermath of the 2012 elections, "We saw more positive expansive legislation being introduced in this legislative cycle across the country than we saw restrictive."

According to the Brennan Center, 204 bills to expand voting in 45 states were introduced this year, with many measures still pending. Among the new laws are ones that allow online voter registration in Virginia and West Virginia, ease photo ID restrictions in Oklahoma, and expand early voting in Maryland.

By comparison, 31 states introduced 82 bills that sought to restrict voting access, with 50 bills still pending. In Arkansas, lawmakers overrode a gubernatorial veto to require photo ID to vote. Nebraska reduced the early voting period. And Montana is trying to repeal Election Day registration with a ballot question in 2014.

Republicans in that state are seeking to roll back the state's 7-year-old same-day registration law. Democrats tried to shut down the state Senate to block the measure. It didn't work, and the question goes before the voters next year.

"They don't want to make it easier for college students to register to vote and for Native Americans to register to vote," Democratic state Sen, Kendall Van Dyk said of Republicans.

Republican State Sen. Alan Olson countered that the proposal would just end registration the Friday before Election Day in order to make life easier for clerks in small rural counties swamped by last-minute registrants. He said that's still a vast improvement over the prior registration deadline of 30 days before the election.

In California, former state Assemblyman Mike Feuer said the spread of voter identification measures in GOP-run statehouses in Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and elsewhere inspired him to write his state's same-day registration law. "At precisely the moment when other states were moving to suppress voter turnout, it was important for California to say: 'We can do better,'" Feuer said.

Well before it passed the new law, Colorado had been at the forefront of the national debate over voter access because of Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler's history of fighting Democrats over a variety of election issues, including efforts to weed out suspected noncitizens from the rolls.

But Democrats were emboldened in the aftermath of a highly successful November election season. It saw Obama win the state, and, more consequential, the party winning back the state House and keeping power in the state Senate. With a Democratic governor at the helm, the sweeping victories gave the party wide leeway to pass the bills they wanted.

Democrats quickly took advantage of their power gains, passing measures to help people in the country illegally, expand firearm background checks and allow same-sex civil unions. Then, late in the legislative session, they introduced their elections overhaul bill that allows same-day registration. It also requires that every voter get a mail ballot.

A bipartisan coalition of local county clerks backed it, saying it would increase access to the ballot box. But Gessler, the Republican who is the state's chief elections official, repeatedly said he was purposely excluded from the process — a charge Democratic lawmakers denied. And legislative Republicans were horrified by the 128-page bill, and warned of fraud that could accompany same-day registration.

"You're already winning the elections," GOP State Senate leader Bill Cadman said as the GOP tried to block the legislation. "Do you need to steal them, too?"

Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the measure on May 10.

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scooters wrote:
Democrats will do anything to get voted in. Including allowing non-US Citizens to vote and have the Black Panters stand guard at the polling stations with billy clubs.
on May 20,2013 | 10:13AM
thevisitor967 wrote:
Isn't that calling the kettle black?! Republicans have BULLIED the Democrats for years--most natably when Bush was President. It's about time the Republicans get a taste of their own medicine. I love it!! Get used to it and stop whining about it.
on May 20,2013 | 11:30AM
DowntownGreen wrote:
Perhaps if Republicans stood for values and policies that the majority supported, they wouldn't have to put so much effort into suppressing the number of people who vote.
on May 20,2013 | 10:32AM
Pacej001 wrote:
or perhaps if the democrats weren't so eager to leave our immigration laws unenforced, borders unguarded, and our voter rolls packed fraudulently by groups like Acorn, Republicans would be less worried about voter fraud and voter identification;;
on May 20,2013 | 10:36AM
OldDiver wrote:
Republicans want everyone to vote as long as they are voting Republican.
on May 20,2013 | 10:39AM
serious wrote:
And the Democrats want the opposite???? Make a statement that makes sense!!
on May 20,2013 | 11:45AM
lynnh wrote:
No...republicans want to stop voting fraud, and these late register voters promote fraud. If someone is not responsible enough the register on time, then they are not responsible enough to vote...period!
on May 20,2013 | 12:04PM
eoe wrote:
I note that "voter fraud" wasn't an issue for Republicans until the demographics of the country shifted enough so that simply pandering to the fears ignorant rural whites and gerrymandering districts was enough to win elections consistently. So while you, as a Republican, might sincerely believe we need to protect against fraud, the national Republican party's clear, stated strategy is to call for these laws because they know that minorities and poor people (aka Democrats) are statistically less likely to have proper identification and therefore will be impacted by these laws more than the Republican base. Its a numbers game. I can 100% guarantee that if their Republicans found that by enacting these laws it would impact Republican and Democrat voters equally then we would not be talking about this today.
on May 20,2013 | 12:43PM
Pacej001 wrote:
I'll happily admit to some of what you say on the conservative side(except for the gerrymandering as a Republican-Only phenomena) if you'll cop to the democrats conniving to get the vote of poor, ignorant urban minorities by fear mongering and the willingness of the democrats to let our southern border go to hades in order to pile on the minority/welfare role votes.
on May 20,2013 | 06:29PM
Pacej001 wrote:
Fine by me.
on May 20,2013 | 06:24PM
eoe wrote:
You do know that border crossings are at their lowest levels in 40 years? And the big, bad republican bogeyman ACORN hasn't existed since 2009?
on May 20,2013 | 12:34PM
Pacej001 wrote:
Now why could border crossings be down? What a puzzle? Could it be that Mexicans and others aren't crossing because there are no jobs. We're still in a recession, a jobs depression, in fact with the lowest labor force participation since 1979. When and If the economy begins to grow at a reasonable rate the borders will be one way freeways again. ACORN disappeared, in name, because it was litigated out of existence in numerous voter registration fraud cases. The same old players are out there. They just changed T-shirts.
on May 20,2013 | 06:33PM
lee1957 wrote:
So requiring identification or not allowing same day registration is voter suppression?
on May 20,2013 | 11:46AM
eoe wrote:
On the ID portion of that question, yes. It's funny that the right wing, you know, the party of freedom, liberty and keep yer hands off my guns, all of a sudden becomes the party of the police state universal ID when it comes to voting rights.
on May 20,2013 | 12:30PM
loquaciousone wrote:
I love these types of bi-partisanship collaborative cooperation between the two predominant political parties.
on May 20,2013 | 10:40AM
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