CO Legislature, Election Officials want to create “a favored class of citizens”

Colorado is considering a law to restrict their Freedom of Information Law to limit ballot access to ballots to most citizens. They say it would create “a favored class of citizens” we say it would make most Coloradans second class citizens. Denver Post editorial: Hickenlooper should veto ballot access measure <read>

A rapidly growing coalition of groups from across the political spectrum — from Common Cause to the Colorado Union of Taxpayers — is urging the governor to veto a bill governing public access to voted ballots. We hope he listens carefully to their arguments, because an important principle is at stake.

Does access to public records apply equally to all citizens in this state, or should the law open some records only to special classes?

The Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) states that “all public records shall be open for inspection by any person at reasonable times.”

By contrast, the ballot bill — which began as Senate Bill 155 but was grafted onto House Bill 1036 at the eleventh hour — says an “interested party” won’t have to wait like the rest of us until an election is certified to enjoy transparent government. And it defines interested parties as not only the candidates themselves but also political parties and even representatives of issue committees that gave money to ballot measures.

Why should the principle of open government be accorded to them and not to other groups just as interested in an election’s outcome?

Why should their ability to inspect records be greater than that of the humblest citizen with no clout or money to spend on politicking?

As members of the Colorado Lawyers Committee Election Task Force wrote in an analysis, the bill’s “restriction of CORA rights during an election to political parties and candidates creates — for the first time — a favored class of citizens … .”

When we first wrote about this bill in March, we described it as a flawed measure that left too much discretion to county clerks and failed to improve procedures that fueled worries about voted ballots being linked to specific voters. But we were also relieved that the clerks had retreated from their earlier opposition to any public access to voted ballots.

The more we consider this complex bill, however, the worse it looks — and our unease is heightened by its crude handling. Not only was it appended to an unrelated measure having nothing to do with elections, it also was rushed through the House with little notice and limited debate.

The ballot access issue has been debated in Colorado for too long. It is time for ballots to be confirmed as public records <read> <read>


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