The bill Hickenlooper signed into law makes Colorado's primary elections and precinct caucuses happen earlier on even-numbered years and requires that mail-in ballots be delivered or mailed to military personnel serving overseas 45 days before an election so they have enough time to vote and have their ballots counted. It's part of a provision of the Military and Overseas Voter Act that Congress passed in 2009.
Before the new law, Colorado mailed out ballots to military and other voters overseas 30 days before elections.
Colorado's primary elections will now happen the last Tuesday in June, as opposed to the second Tuesday in August. Precinct caucuses will happen the first Tuesday in March, instead of the third Tuesday in March.
Rep. Carole Murray, a Republican from Castle Rock who sponsored the legislation, said it's needed to give county clerks enough time to create complete ballots to send overseas. Murray said that during presidential elections, overseas voters sometimes get ballots with only the presidential candidates and none of the local races.
Murray, a former clerk in Douglas County, said she rarely heard complaints about overseas voters in the military, but she feels strongly about the legislation.
"It's kind of interesting. They would just shrug and say, `Well that's just one of the realities of being overseas.' That's terrible. That's not the right answer," Murray said. "Taking somebody's vote away when they're in the military is unacceptable."
Colorado was among four states and the District of Columbia who asked the federal government for waivers last year from the new voting law. The states worried they would not have enough time to comply with the new voting deadlines, but Colorado was ultimately able to meet the requirement.
State lawmakers agreed on the bill setting the new voting deadlines this year, but a companion bill adjusting dates for campaign finance filings did not pass. Murray said lawmakers will have to address that with another bill next year.
In the meantime, the secretary of state's office will adopt a new rule keeping campaign finance requirements on a quarterly schedule, said spokesman Andrew Cole.
Hickenlooper signed several other bills Friday. The new laws include:
- A measure that bars felons from employment at public schools.
- Contractors at schools must now undergo criminal background checks.
- Up to $5 million will be transferred from the State Historical Fund to the Capitol Dome Restoration Fund in fiscal year 2013-14.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)