Colorado voter campaigns going high tech

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DENVER | Colorado voter campaigns are going high tech, using smartphones, tablets and laptop computers to collect petition signatures and verify voter registration.

The political group Pueblo Freedom and Rights used the technology to collect petition signatures to recall Sen. Angela Giron, a Pueblo Democrat, in a heavily Democratic-leaning district. Opponents are angry because of her support for gun bills in this year’s legislative session and successfully put a recall measure on the ballot.

Political group director Victor Head said he was just taking advantage of a 4-year-old voter law that improves online voter registration.

The new technology allowed the campaign to disprove the common adage among petition gatherers that a healthy number of extra signatures, sometimes double the targeted amount, are needed given that the verification process usually finds numerous invalid signatures.

Head’s group submitted 13,466 signatures, only 2,181 more than the required 11,285. Only 6 percent of the signatures they turned into the secretary of state’s office to recall Giron were deemed invalid, putting the recall on the ballot.

In another recall election this year, about 37 percent of the signatures gathered by organizers vying to oust Senate President John Morse, a Colorado Springs Democrat, were ineligible, but that measure also made the ballot.

On Monday, Bernie Herpin turned in his nominating petitions to the Secretary of State, taking the next step in the effort to replace Morse in the election to be held Sept. 10. Those signatures still must be verified.

Colorado law requires a person to be a registered voter and live within the district for their signatures to be valid in a recall.

“We were doing the secretary of state’s job before his office had to do it. We used their technology and had a good idea of what would be validated,” Head said.

Five years ago, using online voter registration tools in gathering signatures would have been an aberration. Petitioners, even today, still use hard-copy voter rolls to check out the registration of an individual.

But since 2009, about a dozen states, including Colorado, have implemented online voter registration laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Republican Scott Gessler has been working on the Web site to make it easier to use on a tablet or smartphone.

“The goal is to make sure Colorado remains at the forefront of technological voter innovation,” said Gessler, who credits the online system with significant increases in voter turnout and registration over the past few years.

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Information from: The Denver Post, https://www.denverpost.com