- The Washington Times - Monday, October 14, 2002

DENVER (AP) An expansion of democracy, or an invitation to fraud?
Those are the competing arguments as voters in Colorado and California consider questions on the Nov. 5 ballot that would allow people to register to vote literally at the last minute at polling places on Election Day.
Supporters of the two proposals Colorado's Amendment 30 and California's Proposition 52 say the measures will produce similar results in their states, helping the many newcomers who often forget to register in advance.
Registration now ends 15 days before Election Day in California and 29 days in advance in Colorado. The result, said pro-amendment spokesman Dave Minshall in Colorado, is to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters.
Critics, including the secretaries of state and other elections officials in both states, say the changes could open the door to fraud by allowing criminals and noncitizens to vote. They say it would be nearly impossible to investigate whether a person voted illegally.
"This isn't Iowa. This is California, and the idea that a polling worker would know that voter is supposed to vote there is a quaint idea," said Dave Gilliard, director of Citizens & Law Enforcement Against Election Fraud in Sacramento.
Six other states have enacted similar measures. They have reported relatively high voter turnouts and no serious problems with fraud.
Maine and Minnesota began allowing same-day registration in 1973; Idaho, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Wyoming have followed. North Dakota doesn't require voters to register at all; they simply need to show a valid ID if asked.
Minnesota Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer supports the same-day system but wants stronger safeguards, such as requiring a photo identification or Social Security number. Minnesotans now can vote merely by having a preregistered voter vouch for their residency.
Minnesota had a 69 percent voter turnout in 2000, the highest in the nation and well above the national turnout of 51 percent. However, Miss Kiffmeyer said Minnesota's turnout usually was higher than average even before same-day registration.
The lead backer of Colorado's measure is Jared Polis, 27, an Internet millionaire elected to the state education board two years ago by a 90-vote margin. The initiative would require residents to present a driver's license or state-issued ID card to register.
California's measure also has a wealthy patron Rob McKay, an heir to the Taco Bell fortune. It would increase fines for voting fraud, and would allow voters who lack a driver's license to register by showing two other documents, such as a utility bill or bank statement.
Colorado Secretary of State Donetta Davidson worries that election judges, fearing lawsuits, would be wary of questioning people about whether documents are valid.
Mr. Minshall said there is plenty of time to work out details before the Colorado amendment would take effect in 2004.
"When you oppose something like this, your argument is about the minutiae," he said. "It's a clerk's job to help people vote."
Curtis Gans, director of the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, said same-day registration moderately increases voter registration but shouldn't be applied in every state.
He is wary of seeing it implemented in California.
"Given the huge numbers of noncitizens in California, it is an accident waiting to happen," Mr. Gans said.
A Los Angeles Times poll of California voters shows Proposition 52 headed toward defeat. No recent polls have been conducted on the Colorado measure.


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