July 16, 2019

SB 14-161: Implementing Provisions of the Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act of 2013

On March 18, 2014, Sen. Jessie Ulibarri introduced SB 14-161 – Concerning the Modernization of Provisions of the “Uniform Election Code of 1992” that Ensure Voter Access for Eligible Electors, and, in Connection Therewith, Reducing the Deadline by which a Voter Registration Application Must be Submitted Via Certain Methods, Altering Procedures Pertaining to National Change-of-Address Searches, Allowing Emergency Ballots to be Obtained for Nonmedical Reasons, Amending Provisions Relating to Military and Overseas Voters, Increasing the Penalty for Providing False Residential Information, and Making the Aiding or Abetting the Provision of False Residential Information a New Felony Offense. This summary is published here courtesy of the Colorado Bar Association’s e-Legislative Report.

The “Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act,” enacted in 2013, made various changes to the “Uniform Election Code of 1992.” To facilitate implementation of that act and the conduct of elections generally, the bill makes various corrections, clarifications, and alterations to the code.

The bill defines the term “post office box” as compartments on premises administered by the United States postal service or other commercial mail service entity.

Currently, when a person moves from one county or precinct in the state to another with the intention of making the new county or precinct his or her permanent residence, the person is considered to reside in that new county or precinct. The bill modifies this provision to apply to any in-state changes of residence when the elector intends the new residence to be his or her sole legal place of residence.

Various deadlines apply by which voter registration must be completed, depending on the method of application. The bill imposes the same deadline (i.e., eight days prior to the date of an election) for voter registration applications by any method of submission, except for applications submitted through voter registration drives or at voter service and polling centers (VSPCs). Further:

  • The bill requires a person to register to vote on or before the eighth day before an election in order to receive a mail ballot for that election;
  • The bill clarifies the time during which voter registration applications may be submitted at VSPCs for elections, other than general elections, coordinated by a county clerk and recorder; and
  • The bill allows voter registration applications to be processed after the 8-day deadline, though voters so registering must still obtain ballots in person.

Currently, to change an address or political party affiliation using the on-line voter registration system, an elector is required to provide the last four digits of his or her social security number. The bill makes the provision of this information optional. The bill also eliminates the requirement that a county clerk and recorder send a nonforwardable postcard to an elector’s former address of record after the elector effects a change of residence using the on-line voter registration system.

The bill harmonizes the self-affirmation a person makes when registering to vote with the statutory residency requirements.

Regarding the monthly national change of address search that the secretary of state must undertake, the bill:

  • Specifies that the search must be performed using the database maintained by the United States postal service;
  • Allows elector registration records to be changed only if the elector has signified that his or her move was permanent;
  • When a search indicates that an elector has added or changed a post office box, directs the county clerk and recorder to update only the elector’s deliverable mailing address and to notify the elector of such change by sending him or her a conformation card;
  • Repeals the prohibition on changing an elector’s record within 60 days of a primary or general election; and
  • Requires that electors who appear, pursuant to such change of address search, to have moved within a county be treated the same whether active or inactive, requires the new addresses of such electors be kept current when confirmation cards mailed to their old addresses are returned as undeliverable.

Because registration records are maintained and accessible electronically, the bill removes obsolete requirements that county clerk and recorders maintain original records at their offices.

The bill makes the use of ballot stubs and duplicate stubs optional and repeals provisions relating to acceptance and processing of those stubs and instead requires election judges to issue credit for ballots provided to each elector in the voter registration list.

The bill eliminates the requirements for electors to manually write in signature card information and instead directs election judges to prepare signature cards using elector information contained in the on-line voter registration system for those cards. The bill also harmonizes the self-affirmation contained on signature cards with those that appear on return envelopes for voted mail ballots.

The bill consolidates provisions pertaining to persons who assist electors with disabilities or who do not speak English. As a result of this consolidation, the bill makes a conforming amendment, and updates terminology pertaining to the physical area in which an elector votes.

The bill modifies the bases on which VSPCs are required for certain elections.

With respect to military and overseas voters:

  • The bill clarifies that ballots cast in accordance with the “Uniform Military and Overseas Voters Act” (UMOVA) are deemed timely and are counted pursuant to that act;
  • In the same way that children are covered by the UMOVA, the bill adds spouses and civil union partners of UMOVA-covered voters who are United States citizens to the purview of that act;
  • The bill removes the deadline by which an election official must receive a declaration from such voters in order for processing prior to an election; and
  • The bill deems electronic requests for ballots to be timely if received any time through seven days prior to election day.

Currently, an elector may obtain an emergency replacement ballot if he or she, or a member of his or her family, is confined to a hospital or residence on election day. The bill allows electors to obtain and vote such ballots for nonmedical reasons, including natural disasters.

The bill requires a self-affirmation on a mail ballot to be signed by the elector, and not a person acting on the elector’s behalf, to be valid.

The bill makes corrections to the bases on which the residency or age of voters are challenged.

With regard to criminal offenses relating to elections:

  • The bill makes the tampering with, or unauthorized opening of, a ballot box a class 5 felony.
  • Currently, the offense of knowingly giving false information regarding an elector’s place of present residence constitutes a class 6 felony. The bill makes that offense a class 5 felony.
  • The bill makes knowingly aiding or abetting an elector in committing the offense of knowingly giving false information as to the elector’s place of present residence a class 6 felony.

Currently, county clerks and recorders are directed to verify the changes of addresses of voters who, pursuant to information received from the United States post office or a driver’s license examination facility, appear to have moved in-state. The bill repeals this verification requirement.

The bill is assigned to the State, Veterans, & Military Affairs Committee.

Since this summary, the State, Veterans, & Military Affairs Committee referred the bill, amended to the Appropriations Committee, and the Appropriations Committee referred the bill, amended, to the Senate Committee of the Whole.

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