Colorado Legislature Passes Major Voting Rights Expansion Bill

Both houses of the Colorado legislature passed a major overhaul of state election law that would implement same-day registration and voting, automatically send mail-in ballots to every voter, and create a real-time statewide voter database to prevent fraud. Proponents view the bill, written by a bipartisan group of county clerks, as a national model for other states.

The same-day registration provision prompted most of the resistance from Republicans, who largely voted against the bill in both houses. The bill, however, did garner Republican support from county clerks, and former Republican Secretary of State Donetta Davidson. The Denver Post explained:

Those promoting the changes said the bill is uniquely Colorado, and the state could take the lead nationally on making elections more convenient to voters. They are confident other states will follow — because voters like mail voting (74 percent in Colorado last November), while preserving in-person voting at a few early voting centers, and, eventually, saving millions of dollars for counties. […]

Other clerks, though, said switching to mail will mean buying less equipment to operate and maintain for a ever-shrinking number of people who still vote in person. That could save millions of dollars in some county over a longer period of time. Denver expects to save a total of about $730,000 in next year’s general election alone, director of elections Amber McReyholds said.

Before the bill goes before Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), the Senate must approve a slight amendment to the House bill. If signed into law, the bill is likely to give a significant boost to turnout. In Washington, Colorado and Oregon, the states that now have universal vote-by-mail, turnout rates exceed the national average by at least five percentage points. And studies have found that Election Day Registration laws boost turnout 7 to 14 percentage points.


Since the November election, 195 bills to expand the franchise have been introduced in 45 states, according to a recent Brennan Center for Justice study. Thirty-one states, however, also introduced 80 new bills to roll back the right to vote.