Aligning with state election laws, Telluride looks at charter amendments to cure conflicts

Title: Aligning with state election laws, Telluride looks at charter amendments to cure conflicts
Source: Telluride News
Date: July 5, 2013
By: Katie Klingsporn

In its recent session, the Colorado legislature passed a voluminous elections overhaul that alters the state’s laws in areas of residency requirements, registration and mail-in ballot elections, among others. Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the bill into law in May. 

Some of the new rules, however, run contrary to provisions of Telluride’s Home Rule Charter, which sets out the framework for the town’s elections. 

In order to amend the situation, the town clerk’s office is working on ways to align Telluride’s charter with state law. 

Town Clerk MJ Schillaci has been working in conjunction with San Miguel County Clerk Kathleen Erie to go through the 125-page bill and come up with amendments to Telluride’s charter that will cure any conflicts. 

Because those changes would be in the form of amendments to Telluride’s charter, they must go to the voters for approval. Town voters will likely see those amendments on the November ballot, Schillaci said. 

But since Telluride will still be ruled by its current charter, there could be some conflicts in November, when the new state laws are expected to be in place. Schillaci said she is already working with Erie to come up with ways to avoid any conflicts during the November election, which will be a coordinated mail-in ballot election. 

Schillaci explained that the town is not mandated to eliminate conflicts, but since the majority of Telluride’s elections are coordinated with San Miguel County, doing so will decrease the possibility of error and citizen confusion. 

The new state law includes a number of provisions aimed at making it easier to register and vote. They include:

• Voters will be able to register to vote on Election Day. 

• Residency requirements are changed to 22 days prior to the election. 

• Mail-in ballots will be used for most state elections, but people can still vote in person if they choose, casting their ballots at any of the voting centers established by the bill instead of the current system of going to a designated precinct polling place. 

Schillaci is proposing to amend the charter so that qualified electors will have to have lived in town for 22 days prior to the election (from the current 30 days). She is also proposing a change to the language to mandate that electors must be registered to vote by the close of polls on Election Day (rather than the current 29 days prior to the election). 

These are the two biggest changes that will help Telluride’s charter match state law, she said. 

She has also proposed including adjustments to mirror the state’s recent adoption of civil unions, and a change that will clean up Telluride’s current precinct status, making the town one precinct instead of two. She would also like to clarify the number of signatures for initiative and referendum petitions. 

The amendments would also make it so that Telluride’s Election Day falls on the first Tuesday in November in odd-numbered years. (The current Election Day standard, which calls for elections to be held on the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November in odd-numbered years, triggered two elections in 2011 rather than one.) And the amendments would clean up the language in a couple of other areas. 

Council Member Thom Carnevale said he is in favor of amending Telluride’s rules. 

“I don’t see a reason why we would go against what the state mandates,” he said. 

The rest of the council agreed. The town will be working on ballot language for the measure. 

The state bill passed with heavy Democratic support as a way to enfranchise more voters, but Republicans criticized it, bringing up concerns about voter fraud and same-day registration.