Testimony against HB-1149
Voces Unidas is opposing HB-1149, Modify Conduct Of Elections In Small Counties, because it weakens our democracy and hurts voters in rural communities.
Below is testimony from Alex Sánchez, submitted for the record in advance of the hearing.
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February 27, 2023
Honorable Members of the House State, Civic, Military, & Veterans Affairs Committee,
My name is Alex Sánchez. I am the founder and CEO of Voces Unidas de las Montañas and Voces Unidas Action Fund, two Latino advocacy organizations working in Lake, Summit, Eagle, Pitkin, and Garfield counties. I am testifying today to express my opposition to HB-1149 — Modify Conduct Of Elections In Small Counties. Thank you for taking the time to hear my testimony.
Let me begin by saying that I believe that Colorado’s election model currently establishes the gold standard for participation in democracy, and I know I am far from alone in that belief. But, like you, I also recognize that democracy is fragile. And efforts to erode our current election model, as HB-1149 does, are certain to disenfranchise voters.
This bill will allow small counties to reduce in-person votes, an initiative that flies in the face of democracy. In a sizable Western state like Colorado, counties are often geographically large and require equitable distribution of voter service and polling centers in order to enable the most possible voters to cast their ballots. Reducing the options will require those who want to vote in-person to travel larger distances, effectively suppressing voters who face travel constraints or may not be able to leave work for extended periods. This bill effectively denies certain eligible voters their Constitutional right to vote.
In my home of Garfield County, for example, reducing voter service and polling centers could force community members in Battlement Mesa or Parachute to drive to Rifle or Glenwood Springs to vote, potentially as much as 100 miles round trip. While such a scenario has the potential to disenfranchise many voters, Latino voters and other working families without reliable transportation will be particularly impacted. This bill creates an unnecessary hurdle to participation in the democratic process.
Additionally, by limiting the statutory requirement for VSPCs in counties with fewer than 10,000 eligible voters to just one center on election day, HB23-1149 would potentially deny all in-person voting for these counties. As written, it could also effectively deny in-person voting for counties with less than 37,500 active voters for the 2 weeks leading up to the election, further obstructing electors.
Finally, the bill seeks to allow clerks of small counties to appoint a member of their own staff to serve as an election judge at a vote center. This provision is likely to either upend the required balance between political parties in VSPCs, or require a county clerk staff member to serve in that role for their party, thereby inserting partisan politics into the election staffer’s duties.
For all of these reasons, I and the organizations I represent stand firmly opposed to HB-1149. On behalf of Voces Unidas, I urge you to vote against passage of this bill.