Three state senators from Mexico – including one who introduced the country’s first tamper-proof voter identification cards when he was a governor – learned about transparency and bi-partisanship when they visited the Colorado Secretary of State’s office.
All three are working on anti-corruption policies in their country, and were interested in the contention from SOS officials that while voter fraud does happen, it is rare and that Colorado has taken important steps to try to ensure election integrity. They also wanted to know how Colorado elections work.
“To vote is your right, but there is no restriction not to vote?” asked Sen. Maria Marcela Torres Peimbert.
Elections director Judd Choate told her she was correct, and added that Colorado has a high voter turnout, in part because the state is almost evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. He also said registration can be done online.
“That’s fantastic,” said Sen. Ernesto Ruffo Appel.
After the visit, he said he was worried about relations between his country and the United States. If there are problems, he said, it could devastate both economies.
The senators and others in the group visited the United States through the International Republican Institute, a nonprofit group dedicated to assisting people worldwide who want freedom and democracy. Former IRI employee Sean Walsh, a Colorado political consultant, introduced the group.
“Just like the Peace Corps leverages American expertise for engineering and agriculture,” he said, “IRI leverages American expertise with respect to governance, party building and politics overseas.”
The first three days were spent in Washington, D.C., learning about transparency and anti-corruption initiatives at the federal level. The delegation then traveled to Colorado, where back-to-back meetings included visits with Gov .John Hickenlooper, Adams County Commissioner Erik Hansen, the ACLU and Lakewood Mayor Adam Paul.
Arapahoe County Clerk Matt Crane also attended the meeting with the delegation at the Secretary of State’s office.
“One of the areas where Colorado is ahead of other states is data,” Crane said. “Collecting data helps you.”
Choate demonstrated to the delegation how to register to vote online or change an existing registration.
“Can someone get into someone’s registration?” asked Sen. Martha Angelica Tagle Martinez.
Choate explained that voters have to know their driver’s license number and the last four digits of their Social Security number in order to see their file.
Also speaking to the delegation were Trevor Timmons, the director of IT for the Department of State, and Mike Hardin, the director of Business & Licensing.
Hardin showed the group how Colorado’s information about lobbyists is posted online. He explained that about 650 lobbyists who are registered with the Secretary of State’s office.
“We are extremely transparent when it comes to lobbying legislators here in Colorado,” Hardin said.
“The transparency comes with monthly disclosures. Every month lobbyists must disclose a few bits of information to our website. We make that information available to the public. Anyone can see how much money is being collected by the lobbyists, who their clients are, what bills they support or do not support and certain expenses. They can do this online. They don’t have to use paper. They can do it all on our web site, every month.
Hardin used Walsh’s firm as an example when looking up lobbying records, prompting a quip from Sen. Appel.
“Our coffee-buyer is a lobbyist?” he asked, referring to Walsh’s Starbucks run for the group.
But the senator complimented the system, saying it helps the people know what is going on.