Posted on 28 April 2010.
By Debi Brazzale, COLORADO NEWS AGENCY
Senate lawmakers voted Tuesday on a measure that clarifies who may and may not vote in an election—for those convicted of, and those still serving time, for felony crimes.
Senate Bill 179, by Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, debated on Monday, was given final approval in the Senate today, and will now head to the House for consideration.
The Colorado state constitution says that anyone that is confined in the prison system cannot vote, but that provision predates the concept of parole. Current state statute says that parolees, still serving their sentence but living outside of prison within communities, cannot vote. However, people who are on probation, which is supervision after they have served their sentence, are allowed to vote. Steadman believes that the parolees are disenfranchised and wants to change current law to clarify who may and may not vote in the criminal justice system.
“There’s a lot of urban legend out there, there’s a lot of misinformation about who may and who may not vote,” said Steadman. “These people who are expected to have a job, expected to pay their taxes, should be able to exercise their voting rights under the TABOR amendment to vote on their taxes.”
Sen. Kevin Lundberg, a Republican from Berthoud, said he couldn’t support the measure, arguing there would be unintended consequences arising from voters who are not actually a resident of a community, but have been assigned to a half-way house as part of their integration back into society.
“This is a significant policy change,” said Lundberg. “They are not residents of that area, but they have been placed there. I see this as a skewing of local elections which I believe is inappropriate.”
GOP Senate minority leader Josh Penry of Grand junction took the debate a step further in a prepared statement by characterizing the measure as a vote-seeking strategy by Democratic lawmakers.
“This is just the latest in a string of Democrat efforts to undermine the integrity of Colorado’s election process,” said Penry. “Democrats don’t support requiring the use of an ID to vote, but they advocate for same-day voter registration. No matter how extreme the proposal, Democrats are doing everything they can to improve their chances this November.”