Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Secretary of State Gessler and Rep. Holbert introduce another citizenship verification bill

Following the defeat of legislation in the senate requiring proof of citizenship before registering to vote, Secretary of State Scott Gessler and State Representative Chris Holbert (R-Parker) unveiled legislation Tuesday, aimed at verifying citizenship for voters who may be non-citizens.

“Currently, the state verifies everything on the voter registration form, except citizenship,” Holbert said. “This is a common sense solution that allows the state to compare our list with other state and federal databases like we already do with the departments of Revenue, Corrections or Public Health and Environment.”

Gessler’s office released a study using data from the Department of Revenue and the state’s voter registration system that resulted in thousands of potential matches of non-citizens on the state’s voter rolls. Since 2006, Colorado residents seeking a state driver’s license or identification card must show proof of lawful presence in the United States. Though most residents show proof of citizenship, some non-citizens show other documents allowing them to live and work in the country legally. Gessler compared those residents that showed a work visa or similar document against the state’s voter rolls to identify potential non-citizens registered using a state-issued identification card.

“Fact is, my office has every reason to believe that thousands of non-citizens are registered to vote in Colorado,” Gessler said. “Though the opponents of this bill want us to look the other way or bury our heads in the sand, House Bill 1252 will allow us to inquire for more information using public databases.”

The legislation would permit the Secretary of State’s office to compare the voter rolls with databases like jury recusal lists or other federal databases showing lawful presence versus citizenship. Evidence suggesting a lack of citizenship would prompt the Secretary of State’s office to send notice to these voters requesting proof of citizenship. If no proof was presented after 90 days, these voters would remain on the rolls with an incomplete status.

“Instead of handing this information over to law enforcement, I believe this is a better approach to keeping the integrity of our rolls,” Gessler said. “For voters who erroneously registered to vote, Colorado should send a letter in the mail rather than law enforcement to their doorstep.”

HB-1252 will get its first hearing Wednesday afternoon in the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

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