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Colorado Rights Blog

SB 018: Proof of Citizenship for Voter Registration

Voting Rights
Bill Number: SB 11-018
Year: 2011
ACLU Position: Active Oppose

Description:

Prepared Testimony in opposition to SB11-018
– January 26, 2011

Thank you Mr. Chair, and thank you members of the Committee. As stated, my name is Jessie Ulibarri and I am the Public Policy Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado. Today, I speak on behalf of our membership – over 9,000 Coloradans who work to protect the fundamental rights and liberties enumerated in our Constitution – in opposition to SB 11-018.

Across the country, the ACLU has defended our basic voting rights, and the organization has been involved in litigation against other states, most notably Arizona, regarding the violations presented by voter registration proof of citizenship laws. In late October of last year, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the proof of citizenship law in Arizona, known as Proposition 200, on the basis that it violated the National Voting Rights Act. I hope that my testimony today can help to prevent a lengthy and expensive court case for the state of Colorado and the taxpayers, regarding an issue that is already clearly defined by the courts.

The right to vote is protected by more constitutional amendments – the First, Fourteenth, Fifteenth, Nineteenth, and Twenty-Sixth – than any other right we enjoy as Americans. There are additional federal and state statutes which guarantee and protect voting rights, as well as declarations by the Supreme Court that the right to vote is fundamental because it is protective of all rights.

By extension, the process to register to vote is the gateway to our democracy and our laws should ensure that the voter registration process allows all eligible voters to participate. Currently, the voter registration process requires that eligible electors self-affirm their citizenship during registration, with the understanding that “to swear or affirm falsely as to your qualifications to register to vote is a criminal act under Colorado law and you will be subject to the penalties provided by law.” The current process ensures that eligible electors can verify their citizenship, under the threat of criminal penalties, without going through a burdensome process that limits their access to our democracy. In contrast, SB 11-018 requires proof of citizenship restricting access to the polls and it creates an unconstitutional poll tax for eligible voters.

Here is a quick overview of the costs associated with procuring the two most basic documents necessary to prove citizenship for the average voter, as outlined by SB 11-018:

• $135 – The basic cost to secure a U.S. Passport
• $37.75 – The minimum cost to secure a copy of a state-issued birth certificate
(additional $9 “convenience” charge added for credit card transactions)

No eligible citizen should have to pay to vote. These voter registration requirements will disproportionably and unfairly impact low-income electors, senior citizens, voters with disabilities, racial and ethnic minority voters, and others who do not have the money or ability to acquire the documentation outlined in SB 11-018. Whenever access to the right to vote is diminished for any group or groups, it ultimately affects all of us by endangering the full civic participation that is so vital to our communities and so linked to our American values.

The Supreme Court has held that a state cannot value one person’s vote over another and, unfortunately, that is exactly what this law will do. We urge you to oppose SB 11-018, and instead we encourage you to pursue policy options that ensure every eligible elector is allowed to vote.

Thank you again for your time today, I welcome any questions you may have at this time.


Current Status:

Postponed Indefinitely by House State Affairs
Introduced In House - Assigned to State Affairs



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