New laws affect voting in Jeffco

OpEd by George Stern
Posted 5/8/19

When I was sworn in as Jefferson County’s Clerk and Recorder four months ago, I outlined a vision of a 21st century office that delivers accessible, efficient, and transparent service for you – …

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New laws affect voting in Jeffco

Posted

When I was sworn in as Jefferson County’s Clerk and Recorder four months ago, I outlined a vision of a 21st century office that delivers accessible, efficient, and transparent service for you – our constituents. We’ve been working every day across all of our divisions – from the DMV to real estate filings – to deliver on that promise, and we’ll be sharing updates in the coming months. But in the meantime, since Colorado’s legislative session wrapped up last Friday, I want to highlight several bills that are about to become laws, and that I am very excited about because they will help us achieve our ambitious vision in the elections division of our office.

First up is the Colorado Votes Act. I am proud to have worked with the sponsors and proponents of Colorado’s House Bill 1278 to help shape a measure that will enhance election accessibility and efficiency statewide, while benefiting Jeffco more than any other county in Colorado. In addition to several other improvements, the bill provides funding for us to expand the use of Voter Service and Polling Centers (VSPCs) and 24-hour drop boxes. Our team has rigorously analyzed elections data to determine where additional voting sites and drop boxes are needed, and thanks to this bill, we will be able to add six new VSPCs and 16 new drop boxes by next year’s presidential election. That last change will more than double the number of 24-hour locations where Jeffco voters can drop off their ballots during the three-week election period.

Another victory for accessibility and efficiency is Senate Bill 235 – Automatic Voter Registration. This bill automatically registers to vote every eligible citizen when they interact with a number of different government offices. Say you move to Lakewood, you’ve worried about finding a home, unpacking, registering the kids for school, figuring out where the closest grocery store is, and you even made it to the driver’s license office to get a new ID. You might have assumed – as many do – that that last step would also register you to vote so you wouldn’t have to reach out to yet another government entity to make sure your ballot arrives where it’s supposed to – and on time. Unfortunately, that wasn’t true before. But it is now: No need to stress about another item; you’ll be registered automatically, and your ballot will show up in the mail!

There are two other bills that will improve accessibility for specific populations in our county. Senate Bill 202, which was sponsored by my fellow Jeffco elected officials state Senators Jessie Danielson and Rachel Zenzinger, uses technology to improve the voting process for people with disabilities. It passed both legislative chambers unanimously. House Bill 1266, which also passed with bi-partisan support in both chambers, restores the right to vote for citizens who are on parole, re-enfranchising thousands of Jeffco voters.

Finally, helping us achieve the transparency part of our vision, House Bill 1318 improves our state’s campaign finance system by rooting out dark money and foreign interference in our elections and lifting the veil on corporate spending. Right now, Super PACs aren’t even required to put “Paid For By” disclosures on digital ads, and as voters in the state’s largest swing county, Jeffco residents see a lot of those third-party ads and mail pieces each cycle. This bill strengthens our laws so voters know who is trying to influence them.

Each of these bills will help us achieve our vision of an even more accessible, efficient, and transparent election system in Jefferson County. And I am honored to serve as your Clerk and Recorder as I work to implement these legislative changes – and continue making other improvements in our office – so we can ensure that Colorado remains the best state to vote.

George Stern is the Jefferson County clerk and recorder. He lives in Golden where he also serves as a volunteer firefighter.

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