Voter Access

In a time when states’ ballot access policies have come under nationwide scrutiny, Colorado recently took action to further expand access for registered voters to election processes. Under new legislation, Colorado’s political parties have increased latitude in how they proceed with district and county assemblies leading up to the June Primary. While Colorado was an early adopter in 2013 of progressive approaches like vote-by-mail, where all Colorado registered voters are mailed a ballot as a voting option ahead of most state elections, the county assembly processes remained one of the sole and difficult to change exceptions to this process.

HB20-1359 was adopted by the Colorado General Assembly as a last priority prior to the state legislature adjourning for a COVID-related recess. The bill temporarily granted broader authority and flexibility to respective party leadership in governing assemblies, voting methods, candidate filings, and election disputes as well as delayed candidate and party filing deadlines. Under the new law, parties have flexibility to adopt electronic, mail or other voting means for party assemblies. Parties may also fill vacancies without the traditional assembly or appointment committee process, instead filling the vacancy by a respective party chair. The broad expansion to these laws is repealed Dec. 31, 2020 unless further extended by the state legislature at a later date.

In addition to signing this legislation, Colorado Governor Jared Polis issued an executive order directing state political parties to amend, temporarily, any party rules or bylaws in order to comply with directives under the state’s emergency declaration. On the regulatory front, the secretary of state was directed to “set deadlines consistent with any amended party rules and bylaws and take appropriate actions,” allowing the June 30 Primary to proceed uninterrupted.

Extending flexibility in voting options, and specifically vote by mail processes, have historically had a favorable effect on both reducing election costs and increasing voter turnout in Colorado.[1] Expanding flexibility in these processes could have ongoing implications for the candidate selection process throughout the 2020 election cycle, as well as future elections.

The following is a breakdown of the policies each major political party adopted to govern proceeding in its respective 2020 district and county assemblies:

 Colorado Democratic PartyColorado Republican Party
Electronic notification and votingNotification reduced from 10 days, to threeAll forms of voting permitted, including electronic; records must be verifiableBoth electronic notification and electronic transmission of vote permittedRecords must be verifiable and kept on file for six months
Quorum requirementsMay be reduced or waived entirelyRequirements suspended, but must have three delegates participate
Multi-district requirementsCoordinated through the state partyRules suspended
Remote participation & Proxy votingRemote participation allowedProxies limited to five per delegateNo proxies for remote participantsRemote participation allowedProxies limited to five per delegateNo proxies for remote participants
DeadlinesCounty assemblies must be completed by April 11. Candidate filings and nomination deadlines extended to May 1  County/District assemblies must be completed by April 11 (limited period of no more than seven days)Nomination deadlines may be set by district/county officers in advance of assembly/convention
Dispute resolutionNone on recordCandidate/delegate must file dispute within two days of adjournmentState executive committee recommends determination to State Central Committee, which makes final decision
Misc.Candidates still required to receive 30 percent or more support to be placed on ballotChanges in voting process must be completed in three days prior to votingChanges to credentialing/voting at state assembly requires seven-day advance notificationCompleted delegations and conventions are exempt for emergency bylaws

[1] Costs: https://www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/assets/2016/03/coloradovotingreformsearlyresults.pdf

Turnout: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/5/23/17383400/vote-by-mail-home-california-alaska-nebraska

Wes Skiles
Bio Link As a Principal at Michael Best Strategies, Wes helps clients protect and advance their business interests through political and legislative advocacy. He has considerable experience in lobbying, strategy, research, and coalition building, and he helps clients build strong relationships with policy makers and stakeholders. Wes analyzes the potential impact of pending legislation, and works closely with clients to deploy strategies that will produce favorable outcomes. He regularly works with regulatory bodies, including the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, as well as state and federal health agencies, on policy issues that affect Colorado businesses. Expertise: Government Relations, Public Policy, Lobbying, Legislative Process, Healthcare

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