Secretary of state supports reform

Posted 6/10/10

Colorado Secretary of State Bernie Buescher told business leaders at the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce that his office has a three-part …

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Secretary of state supports reform


Colorado Secretary of State Bernie Buescher told business leaders at the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce that his office has a three-part mission for elections.

“We’re going to make it as easy as possible for every eligible citizen to vote,” he said June 8. “We’re going to make sure every vote is counted accurately. We’re going to prevent fraud and abuse.”

The Democrat spoke to about 15 chamber members as part of the organization’s ongoing series of candidate forums. Buescher touted his new program for online voter registration as an example of how his office is striving to make voting a user-friendly experience.

“In three minutes, you can register if you’ve got a state-issued ID,” he said of the web-based service. “Bingo, you’re registered.”

The official would support loosening Colorado’s longstanding requirement that voter registrations stop 29 days before Election Day. Colorado is one of a handful of states that have kept a similar law on the books.

“That was a system that was designed when everything was done by mail. Truthfully, it’s just outdated,” Buescher said. “… I’m not really a proponent of Election Day registration, but I think we can shorten that time frame.”

Buescher, an attorney and former Grand Junction businessman, was appointed as secretary of state in 2008 by Gov. Bill Ritter to replace Mike Coffman, a Republican who had resigned after being elected in the 6th Congressional District.

Buescher, who has also served two terms in the Colorado General Assembly, is seeking election to a full four-year term as secretary of state in November. His challenger is Republican elections attorney Scott Gessler.

The two candidates have taken very different views on the role of money in campaigns. Finance reform is among the areas of disagreement. Buescher would support public financing of campaigns.

“I am supposed to spend three or four hours a day raising money for this job,” he told the chamber. “They tell me I should raise 700,000 bucks for a job that pays [$65,000]. It’s so crazy. It’s just out of control. … Even worse than the hard dollars the candidate raises is the soft dollars that the 527 [organizations] will spend.”

While his opponent, Gessler, staunchly agrees with a controversial recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that will allow corporations and unions to spend unlimited funds on election advocacy, Democrat Buescher said he has a very different opinion on the relationship between money and politics.

“[Gessler] sees the First Amendment as an absolute,” the incumbent said. “I see the First Amendment as more nuanced. I don’t think that our founding fathers believed that expenditure of money was the equivalent of free speech.”

According to Buescher, money is also becoming a difficult issue in government operation of elections. During the last two years, he has worked with county clerks from across the state to raise consensus on reforming and streamlining the way Coloradans go to the polls.

“We’ve got to control the cost,” Buescher said. “The disaster would be if one of our small counties called me and said we don’t have the money to run the election.”

Buescher would be willing to cautiously experiment with what is called “approval voting,” which allows voters to choose more than one candidate in a race. The idea is favored by Libertarians and other minor parties who often siphon votes from Republicans and Democrats.

Besides overseeing elections, the Colorado secretary of state’s office registers businesses, lobbyists, charities and notary publics, among a host of other administrative functions.

The incumbent says he is concerned about the larger political process that will decide in November whether or not he will spend another four years as Colorado’s chief record keeper. The first challenge, he said, is campaign financing.

“The second is civility in our discussions,” he said. “If we can’t get to the point where we can disagree with each other and do it in a civil way and not demonize the person that we disagree with for whatever reason, I think we are going to lose the ability to govern ourselves.”


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