1-1-103. Election code liberally construed
(1) This code shall be liberally construed so that all eligible electors may be permitted to vote and those who are not eligible electors may be kept from voting in order to prevent fraud and corruption in elections.
(2) It is also the intent of the general assembly that non-English-speaking citizens, like all other citizens, should be encouraged to vote. Therefore, appropriate efforts should be made to minimize obstacles to registration by citizens who lack sufficient skill in English to register without assistance.
(3) Substantial compliance with the provisions or intent of this code shall be all that is required for the proper conduct of an election to which this code applies.
Source: L. 92: Entire article R&RE, p. 624, § 1, effective January 1, 1993.L. 96: (1) amended and (3) added, p. 1732, § 1, effective July 1.
Editor’s note: This section is similar to former § 1-1-103 as it existed prior to 1992.
The second half of this subsection (1), that the code should be liberally construed so that “those who are not eligible electors may be kept from voting” is, at most, rarely applied by courts, perhaps because it is not entirely consistent with the first half.
Courts frequently apply a liberal construction in favor of voters voting over a technical or strict construction of a statute that would prevent voting on a candidate or ballot measure. This principle is sometimes paired with the principle of “substantial compliance” referenced in subsection (3) of this section.
The Bill of Rights in Colorado’s Constitution includes the following declaration regarding elections:
Article II. Section 5. Freedom of elections. All elections shall be free and open; and no power, civil or military, shall at any time interfere to prevent the free exercise of the right of suffrage.
Election cases are often decided on the basis of “substantial compliance” rather than strict compliance. “Substantial compliance” may be determined by a three-part test described in cases such as Bickel v. City of Boulder, 885 P.2d 215 (Colo. 1994) and Fabec v. Beck, 922 P.2d 330 (Colo. 1996).
As a practical matter, election officials (such as the secretary of state and county clerk and recorders) tend to follow election statues strictly as written. For example, a late filing by a candidate might be applied strictly to disqualify the candidate. However, courts tend to apply the principles of substantial compliance and liberal construction as stated in section 1-1-103 to overlook technical noncompliance.
1. Definition for Election
Any election under the “Uniform Election Code of 1992” or the “Colorado Municipal Election Code of 1965”, article 10 of title 31, C.R.S. C.R.S. § 1-7.5-103.