House Bill 1135 (HB 1135), which would allow 16- and 17-year-olds to preregister to vote in Colorado, has turned into a one-sided attempt by Democrats to boost youth registration in the state despite proponents' claims of bipartisanship with a goal of fair and accessible elections. While over 85 individual lobbyists and consulting groups have signed on to HB 1135, the only supporters of the bill are liberal activists and leftist organizations.
HB 1135 is titled "Voter preregistration at age 16" and the summery of the proposal states that, “A person who has reached 16 years of age but who will not reach 18 years of age by the date of the next election is allowed to preregister using any means available to persons of voting age. The registration will automatically become active when the preregistered person reaches 18 years of age.”
The bill, sponsored by Democrats in both the House and the Senate, successfully made its way out of the House on a 37-28 vote, along strict party lines. The partisan legislation is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Appropriations Committee by the end of this week.
Democratic Representatives Jonathan Singer, Lois Court, Jovan Melton, Joe Salazar, and Senator Andy Kerr are the sole sponsors of the act.
According to the bill's fiscal notes, allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to preregister to vote will cost Coloradans over $500,000. Though the bill was originally estimated to only cost $71,000, the latest amount has grown to a total of $572,112. The Department of Revenue and the Governor's Office of Information Technology would require $86,000 to comply with the new voting standards. The bulk of the money would go to the Colorado Secretary of State's office, which would need $485,000 to modify the statewide voter registration system to handle the completely new arrangement of taking registrations for children too young to vote.
A vast array of progressive political organizations have hired lobbyists to argue in favor of the bill, including the ACLU, Colorado Common Cause, and Mi Familia Vota. Notoriously progressive Boulder County is also listed as supporting the bill.
A large number of abortion organizations have shown interest in pushing HB 1135. NARAL, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, and Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights have all financed lobbyists - for a bill dealing strictly with voter registration.
Labor unions have also aligned behind the measure, including the state chapters of the AFL-CIO, AFSCME, 9to5 The National Association of Working Women, and the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRCA).
Well-known Democratic lobbying firms with an overwhelming number of partisan clients are involved with HB 1135 as well. For example, Siegel Public Affairs, 5280 Strategies LLC, and dSolutions have all signed on and taken a financial interest in the legislation.
New Era Colorado is the main grassroots proponent of the bill outside of the lobbying taking place in Denver. New Era, known for its progressive agenda and unorthodox methods of promoting democracy, alleges that Colorado needs to allow 16-year-olds to preregister to vote in order to strengthen elections in the state.
The organization advertises that "our democracy depends on having free, fair, and accessible elections," and claims HB 1135 is the best vehicle for making that happen in a non-partisan, agenda-free way.
However, neither New Era's message nor its board members have displayed any signs of bipartisanship.
For example, Courtney Law, the current chair of New Era Colorado, is also a commissioner of the Denver GLBT, former intern with ACLU, and a Communications Director with the Democratic Party. New Era Colorado’s Facebook page promotes only progressive organizations like Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains and the ACLU of Colorado.
New Era Colorado’s push for HB 1135 has included bizarre antics like passing out condoms that encourage youth to “Do it for Democracy” and staffers bragging about "liquoring up" before registering voters.
Despite its fascination with HB 1135 and promoting a "stronger democracy" by allowing minors to preregister to vote, New Era has yet to bring forth any evidence suggesting why Colorado needs the bill.
Voter registration has become increasing simple, convenient, and modernized in Colorado in recent years; 18-year-olds can register online at the secretary of state's website, edit or update their info remotely, or register when they get their license at the DMV. High schools and college campus throughout the state also always have voter registration forms made available to students and voter registration drives are held regularly.
HB 1135 will be presented by Representative Singer and Senator Kerr to the Senate Committee Meetings and Senate Appropriations Committee on Friday, April 12.
This story was originally featured at Media Trackers Colorado.