New Colorado Secretary Of State Immediately Starts Pushing For Voter ID Laws

CREDIT: AP PHOTO/J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE
CREDIT: AP PHOTO/J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE

Wayne Williams (R) was sworn in this week as Colorado’s Secretary of State, and has already begun pushing for laws to make voters show photo identification before they can cast a ballot. “I think most Coloradans are honest and law-abiding and follow the rules, but I think it’s important to have the processes in place to protect the election system so that people have confidence in it,” Williams told Colorado Public Radio in an interview over the weekend.

He added that because Democrats still control the governor’s mansion and state house, passage of such a law is unlikely, but offered that he’d be willing to settle for rules requiring a photo ID for Coloradans taking advantage of the state’s same-day voter registration. “This is someone we’ve never seen before. We don’t have any proof they are who they claim to be,” he said.

Studies show such a law targeting same-day registration would disproportionately impact voters who are younger, lower income, non-white, and newly naturalized.

Williams’ campaign centered on his reputation as a “champion of access and transparency in government” and his promise to “ensure voter access to the polls” — though he did express support for voter ID laws during his run for office. He also often touted his record of making voting more convenient as a county clerk: “We have worked with all parties and groups to ensure that our polling locations are located in easy to reach locations and we’ve exceeded legal requirements by opening more locations and opening them for longer hours. As a result of these efforts, more citizens have voted than ever before in my county.”

After winning the race, he flipped on this point as well, telling Colorado Public Radio that too many polling locations were open for too many hours in this past election. “That’s not really a very cost-effective way and there certainly wasn’t a demand for it,” he said, adding that he hopes to give counties “flexibility at the local level” to decide when and where polling locations should be available.

In recent years, Colorado has moved to make its elections some of the most accessible in the country. Ballots are automatically mailed to all registered voters, who can then mail them in, deposit them in 24-hour secure drop boxes, or bring them to the polls early or on Election Day.

Williams’ predecessor, Secretary of State Scott Gessler (R), dedicated his term to hunting, unsuccessfully, for election fraud that would warrant stricter voting laws. He famous launched a statewide investigation into voter fraud that turned up exactly zero verifiable cases of ballots illegally cast. Gessler also opposed the implementation of same-day voter registration and mail-in ballots.

Still, Williams plans to carry on Gessler’s crusade, saying that while he can’t point to any evidence that fraud exists in the state, “Making sure that process is secure is the top priority.”

Newly elected officials in Nebraska and Nevada have begun preparing their own voter ID bills, which they hope to pass and have in place before the 2016 election.