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The ballot and cartridge boxes under attack in Colorado

Written By | Jan 4, 2015

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., January 4, 2015—Frederick Douglass famously said that our liberty is contained in four boxes. Two of those—the ballot box and the cartridge box—have been under attack in Colorado. As Colorado’s four-month legislative session opens this week, Conservatives are looking for ways to undo the damage done to them by radical Democrats. Two big targets: the gun control and election “reform” laws enacted in 2013.

Republicans in Colorado did well in the November election, but not nearly well enough to enact repeal of gun control laws. They won control of the state Senate but not the House. On election night it looked as though they had won that, too, but overnight as late returns were counted two seats flipped back to Democrat control.

Douglas said our liberties reside in four boxes: soap box, ballot box, cartridge box, knowledge box.

Douglas said our liberties reside in four boxes: soap box, ballot box, cartridge box, knowledge box.

Democrats in Colorado are in essentially the same position as they were after the 2010 election. Then Republicans controlled the House. This time, though, they can sit on their accomplishments from the radical sessions of 2013 and 2014. Under the leadership of now-recalled state Sen. John Morse, they forced through radical gun control bills and a huge election “reform” bill authored by the also-recalled Sen. Angela Giron. To maintain their agenda all they need do now is sit tight and vote en bloc.

It’s a classic military strategy that fits the militantly-leftist Colorado Democrat Party. Push the agenda as far and as fast as possible when opportunity presents, and then dig in and defend the gains until the next opportunity for advance presents itself. It’s the strategy of trench warfare last seen on the Western Front in World War I.

It’s brutal but if you’re willing to take casualties (like Sens. Morse, Giron and Hudak) but it works.

This session Republicans will introduce bills to repeal the magazine ban that reduced the size of allowable magazines to 15 rounds and sent manufacturer Magpul to Texas. It would be nice to put that bill on the desk of Gov. John Hickenlooper who told Colorado sheriffs that signing the bill into law was a mistake.

With Democrats still in control of the House that seems unlikely to happen.

Citizens of all political stripes have a better chance with election law. House Bill 13-1303 was a collection of election worst-practices that Coloradans didn’t want. It contained such things as same-day voter registration, which failed in 2002 as a state-wide initiative, and all mail-in ballot elections. Residency requirements were reduced and traditional precinct polling places abolished.

The result today is essentially anonymous voting. Not as in secret ballot, but rather ballots whose origin or eligibility cannot be verified.

It is a wide-open system in the worst traditions of the Wild West.

Saturday the Republican Study Committee of Colorado held an informal hearing in Denver to hear about issues with the new election laws.

Election integrity activists from throughout the state attended and many made presentations. Some have been active in Colorado elections for decades. Several themes emerged.

Perhaps the most important is that elections belong to the people—but the state, led by the County Clerk and Recorders Association, has been gradually edging citizens out of the oversight process.

Elections are administered by the clerks, but belong to the people – George Leing, former Chair of Boulder County Republicans

Of particular concern was that the role of citizen Canvass Boards was diminished. One activist said that Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall had “ran roughshod over the canvas board.” Others reported that citizen watchers and even media had been restricted from observing election processes. Many ballots, including undeliverable ballots, were uncontrolled. Ballot harvesters were allowed to return any number of ballots despite the statutory limit of ten.

Long-time activist Al Kolwicz said that Colorado got to where we today are without public discussion of the issues—a reference to the closed-door drafting Giron’s House Bill 1303. He said that every eligible voter should get to vote, but that no one ineligible gets to vote. There needs to be accountability for ignoring the law. Vote fraud is currently weakly enforced.

Election issues seemed to come primarily from three counties: Boulder, Arapahoe and Pueblo. Other counties were not immune. In Jefferson County, Senator-elect Laura Woods saw her lead dwindle from 1200 votes to a mere 300 overnight as late ballots were counted. Woods is a gun rights activist and an organizer in the Hudak recall. She now holds Hudak’s seat.

The gun control agenda of Michael Bloomberg and his followers among Colorado Democrats continues to reverberate through Colorado politics. One thing is certain: the issues won’t be resolved without free and fair elections that Coloradans can trust.

Al Maurer

Al Maurer is a political scientist and founder of The Voice of Liberty. He writes on topics of limited government and individual rights.