Citizens won't decide this year if voter ID should be required

April 4, 2012

DENVER — Citizens won’t get to vote this year on a proposed regulation that would require a photo ID to vote. A proposed ballot measure to create such a law was killed by a Senate committee Wednesday, on a 3-2 partisan vote.

The Republican-sponsored House Bill 1111 would have asked Coloradans to insert in statute a requirement that photo ID’s, such as driver’s licenses, be presented at polling places to get a ballot, and to register to vote. But the committee’s three Democrats agreed with opponents of the measure, who said such a law would discourage some people, including homeless people and Hispanics, from voting.

Supporters of the bill, including El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Wayne Williams, have long contended that voter fraud is a danger in Colorado, and that requiring photo ID’s would help solve the problem.

Williams told the committee that in 2008 presidential election, 317 out of 138,000 mail ballots cast in El Paso County were ruled as not matching. The ruling, he said, was made by a Republican and a Democratic judge.

He also said it’s far too easy to present supposed proof of identification to be able to vote at polling places.

“You’re allowed to bring in a utility bill from a neighbor, that you found in a garbage can of your neighbor, who you know is out of town, or unable to vote, or dead,’” Williams told the committee.

Democratic senators, however, were not persuaded.

“It’s a boogey man to say that there is rampant fraud,” said Sen. Bob Bacon, D-Fort Collins. “We have discounted a large number of people who do not have access to identification.”

Elena Nunez, executive director of Colorado Common Cause, said voter ID cards “can be incredibly difficult to get.”

She said aside from Hispanics and the homeless, it would also be harder for seniors, the disabled and college kids who have moved here from out of state to get a ballot.

Several Hispanics testified angrily that voting isn’t necessarily a right, and said they didn’t want their demographic used as an excuse to oppose the bill. Voting is a privilege that must be earned, many said.

Lizzy Norris, an immigrant from Panama, said she came to the United States in 1989, and it took her 12 years to become a citizen. The right to vote, she told the committee, should not be taken lightly.

Contact John Schroyer: 476-4825 Twitter @Johnschroyer Facebook Gazette John Schroyer

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