Election watcher bill causing controversy in Colorado

The Washington Free Beacon: A bill before the Colorado General Assembly setting new criteria for election watchers is starting a fierce debate in the state.

Senate Bill 17-138, which is being promoted by Republicans, changes the statute dealing with election watchers in response to the state’s transition to an all mail-in ballot election system. Election watchers are citizens with the right to vote who are appointed to observe and verify every step of the voting process on behalf of a political party or issue committee.

The bill changes the requirement for how many watchers are present during the counting process and adds background checks at the discretion of county clerks, even though there is no crime that disqualifies a person from serving as an election watcher.

Election watchers who oppose the bill say it will restrict access and limit the role of citizen electors whose job is to ensure the vote is free and fair. Background checks, critics say, could be used to delay and intimidate potential watchers.

Supporters of the bill, which originated in the Colorado secretary of state’s office, say it is simply a way to harmonize the statute with the state’s all mail-in ballot elections. They add the legislation would actually expand the number of election watchers.

“We’re going in the opposite direction of every modern democracy,” said Marilyn Marks, an experienced election watcher and advocate for transparency in elections.

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