Carroll responds to attacks on voting reform proposal

Colorado House Speaker Terrance Carroll, D-Denver, appeared uncharacteristically off-balance and back on his heels this morning, reeling from the firestorm of conservative criticism that erupted in the face of his draft plan to cut the costs of and up participation in elections by reworking voter registration rules.

The Colorado right-wing blogosphere lit up with references to “voter fraud” and “stolen elections” and the now-defunct demonized anti-poverty organization ACORN.

Carroll told the Denver Post he was reconsidering even introducing his plan as legislation. Six hours later, he has released a defense of the plan that underlines the poisoned partisan atmosphere that has reigned under the dome this session.

Terrance Carroll

Carroll’s plan proposed to introduce same-day registration, allow for third-party delivery of completed ballots and encourage mail-in voting– none of the proposals radical and most of them supported generally by election reform analysts. In any case, as Carroll writes in his release, the ideas were proposals that he handed over to Republican lawmakers for review. He was looking for input and suggestions, he writes. In the last 24 hours, the bloggers at Peoples Press Collective have pored over the proposal and fired off heated warnings: “Progressive Power Play Called: Steal Elections If You Can’t Win” “Election Fraud in the Making” “Mickey Mouse voting” “Nip Bad Elections Bill in the Bud”

Here’s Carroll’s version:

For the past eight weeks my staff has been meeting with the Secretary of State and members of the county clerks association to address the most effective and cost-efficient ways to hold elections.

In fact, the legislation was originally drafted at the urging of the county clerks to help reduce their administrative burden and to save taxpayer monies.

I went to the minority leader in the same spirit, with a collaborative draft. As any lawyer could tell you, the starting point in any negotiation is not the ending point. The bill as drafted is broad legislation, and in the spirit of working together, we released a draft to the minority leader and the leadership of the clerks association.

What has happened in the past few days has been nothing more than partisan spin and Republican hysteria. Much of what’s been said and written has very little in common with the actual draft legislation.

And it’s a shame. Right now, some counties spend as much as $35 per voter to hold an election, and are dealing with an inventory of antiquated voting machines. County clerks have been looking for solutions to election problems, while at the same time dealing with increased voter turnout. As evidenced by the machine de-certification debacle during the last election cycle under Secretary of State Mike Coffman, and changing voting trends, our clerks are struggling to determine which voting systems to invest in with their limited funds.

It’s always been imperative to me to protect eligible voters, promote participation, and reduce fraud. By broadening the mail-ballot option, and with the other components, I believe this draft addresses many of my goals.

One thing you’ve heard spun in the last few days is concerns about fraud. The fact is, it closes some loopholes by allowing just a few acceptable forms of ID, not the long laundry list of currently acceptable identification.

It’s interesting that the people now terribly concerned about fraud in the SCORE system under Secretary of State Buescher (D) are the same people who supported SCORE when it was originally introduced as an anti-fraud measure by GOP Secretary of State Coffman.

This legislation is about saving money and ensuring access to the ballot for eligible voters.

I guess I have to ask, why are Republicans so interested in making it as difficult and expensive as possible for their county clerks to hold elections?

And finally, why are Republicans scared of more people voting?

It’s also worth reporting again, seeing as the Denver Post followed the lead of the New York Times and most other news organizations in getting it all wrong: the anti-poverty organization ACORN, which worked mostly to secure home loans for low-income Americans and also helped hundreds of thousands of poor people to register to vote, has been cleared in courts of the splashy charges made against it last year and that led lawmakers, based on “evidence” provided by activist hoaxers, to unconstitutionally defund the organization. Despite intense scrutiny, there remains no evidence that any vote was ever cast illegally following an improper registration performed by an ACORN worker.

In 2008, a tiny proportion of ACORN contractors looking to make easy money filled out false forms and handed them in to make it seem like they did the work they were being paid to do. Such forms– where “Mickey Mouse” was registered, for example– were mostly tossed out by ACORN. Those were fraudulent registrations and they can be turned in by all kinds of well-intentioned organizations. Translating a fraudulent registration into a vote is a very different matter, a crime ACORN has never been found guilty of committing in the face of intense investigation.

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