Friday is Jack Tate election bills day in the state Senate

Author: John Tomasic - March 30, 2017 - Updated: March 30, 2017

Colorado's "gold dome."
Colorado’s “gold dome.”

On Friday, the Senate is scheduled to act on two closely watched elections bills sponsored by Centennial Republican Jack Tate.

As The Statesman has reported, the first, Senate Bill 71, proposes to reallocate resources during the early voting period, shutting down some voter service centers in the first lightly trafficked week in the state’s largest counties and keeping all of the voting centers open longer hours in the second week and in the heavily trafficked last days of the voting period.

Capitol analysts say the bill could save the state between $700,000 and $1 million.

But critics say Tate’s bill doesn’t do enough to increase access to resources where it’s needed most and so fails to justify making the change. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” is the sentiment.

They note that recent election reform in the state has already saved millions. Between 2008 and 2014, costs of running elections in Colorado dropped about 40 percent, from $16 per vote to $9.56 per vote, according to county data compiled by Pew Trusts. Critics say increased access to voting is worth some measure of extra time and money.

The bill passed a crucial second reading weeks ago. Critics, mostly Democrats, will have had time to reflect on the bill. In particular, potential Democratic House sponsor Rep. Dan Pabon will have had time to rally stakeholders and survey the landscape. County clerks, as famously diverse in their thinking as their counties are in their demographic and geographic make up, were reportedly wavering on the bill.

The bill will pass its third reading in the Senate tomorrow — or whenever it comes up — but, without a Democratic sponsor in the House, it will face more than steep odds of passing into law.

Tate’s Senate Bill 138 concerns the rules that govern citizen election watching. The work that watchers perform — and the challenges to doing it well — have changed as technology has advanced in recent years. Tate has considered amending the bill, a bipartisan proposal sponsored with Rep. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette. Election watcher activists think the bill does too much to limit the oversight they are tasked with providing. So, what will the bill look like at the end of second reading?

John Tomasic

John Tomasic

John Tomasic is a senior political reporter for The Colorado Statesman covering the Colorado Legislature.