Legislation coming to hold Colorado primary elections sooner in the year

Senator Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, said today that an elections commission will soon introduce legislation to hold Colorado primary elections in June in order to comply with new federal election guidelines.

Currently, Primary elections are held the second Tuesday in August. Under the proposed change, primaries will be the last Tuesday in June.

Heath also said the legislators should prepare themselves for the redistricting commission’s recommendations on Congressional district lines to reach them by April 14.

Colorado has been out of compliance with the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act since enactment just months before the 2010 legislative session. Like many other states, Colorado – which has a late primary schedule – is unable to comply with the provision that oversees ballots are sent out by counties no later than 45 days before an election.

The Best Practices and Vision commission, appointed by former Secretary of State Bernie Buescher, was asked to develop a schedule and a primary date that would allow the state to fall within federal guidelines. Heath said the time is now at hand for those guidelines to become reality and said he hoped to have legislation on legislator’s desks soon.

The new Primary Election date will likely be June 26, though other dates in July were considered, according to the commission’s discussion on the proposed calendar changes. The legislation will likely move up many of the filing deadlines for candidates and amendments.

“All of these dates are coming together and we are going to have a bill that will be taken to you all that I hope Senator Murray and I are going to co-sponsor,” Heath said. It compresses [the elections schedule] tremendously, but we don’t have a choice. Federal guidelines have come out and basically we have got to have 45 days for military people; we have got to get the ballots out.”

Heath said that the bill will have nothing to do with policy, but said it would affect a number of clerk and recorders and would cause some major restructuring of the deadlines.

“It is strictly a mechanical bill; it doesn’t deal with policy. It doesn’t decide who can vote and can’t vote. All it tries to do is to set the dates going back to that caucus date to try and get that together.”

Heath said the new dates would likely be unconstitutional under the Colorado Constitution as result of conflicts with initiatives and judicial appointments, however, he said it was unlikely anyone would challenge the schedule due to the pressing need to comply with federal voting regulations.

“We are going to have to pass this even though it is in violation of the constitution,” Heath said.

Heath also said the redistricting committee — which he co-chairs with Rep. David Balmer, R-Centennial — is working to bring forward a plan for Congressional districts by April 14. He said legislators can then begin to take action on the political shape of Colorado for the next 10 years. He said that there will be training for all legislators so that they can get an idea of the new technologies that will allow them to redraw lines both efficiently and fairly.

“So we are making history here, and as a committee we are committed to getting this done and present you as members of the general assembly with a bill,” Heath said. “The desire is we would love to come to you with a 10 – 0 vote from the commission.”

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