1-8.3-101. Short title
This article may be cited as the “Uniform Military and Overseas Voters Act”.
Source: L. 2011: Entire article added, (HB 11-1219), ch. 176, p. 664, § 1, effective May 13.
Cross references: For school elections, see articles 30, 31, and 42 of title 22; for elections for removal of county seats, see article 8 of title 30; for municipal elections, see article 10 of title 31; for special district elections, see part 8 of article 1 of title 32; for exemption of certain statutory proceedings from the rules of civil procedure, see C.R.C.P. 81; for recall from office, see article XXI of the state constitution; for recall of state and county officers, see part 1 of article 12 of this title; for recall of municipal officers, see part 5 of article 4 of title 31; for recall of directors of special districts, see § § 32-1-906, 32-1-907.
Editor’s note: This article was added with relocations in 2011. Former C.R.S. section numbers are shown in editor’s notes following those sections that were relocated.
ARTICLE 8.3 PREFATORY NOTE: Over five million military personnel and overseas civilians face a variety of legal and logistical obstacles to participating in American elections. These problems persist notwithstanding repeated congressional efforts, as well as various state efforts, to facilitate these voters’ ability to vote, most prominently the enactment of the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act of 1986 (UOCAVA), and its amendment with the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act of 2009 (MOVE). The obstacles include: difficulties in registering to vote from abroad; ballots or ballot applications that never arrive; frequent changes of address; slow mail delivery times to and from overseas citizens, especially military personnel; failures to complete absentee voting materials properly, including noncompliance with notarization or verification requirements that can be difficult to meet abroad; and difficulties in obtaining information about issues and candidates. Data from the 2006 federal midterm election provide dramatic evidence of the problems that these voters have recently faced. In 2006 U.S. military personnel were slightly more likely to have registered to vote than the general U.S. population (87percnt; vs. 83percnt;), yet the voter participation rate among the military was about half that of the general population (roughly 20percnt; vs. roughly 40percnt;). Furthermore, only 25percnt; of overseas and military voters who requested an absentee ballot in 2006 completed and returned one, compared to 85percnt; of all voters who requested an absentee ballot. Meanwhile, more than one in five ballots cast by military service members was rejected.
Although some of these figures improved during the high-interest 2008 presidential election, the overall picture remains troubling. In 2008, roughly two-thirds of those overseas and military voters who requested a ballot returned it, and the rejection rate for those ballots dropped to under one in fifteen ballots. Yet both of these rates remain substantially worse than the comparable 2008 rates for absentee voters generally (which were a return rate of over 90percnt;, and a ballot rejection rate of 1.7percnt;). Meanwhile, according to data collected by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, fewer than 700,000 absentee ballots were returned by military and overseas voters in 2008. This figure is not much different from the comparable figure for the 2006 federal midterm elections, meaning that the voter participation rate among these voters remained well below 20percnt;, despite the fact that among voters generally the 2008 election produced an overall voter participation rate of over 61percnt;, the largest in four decades. Without additional reforms to the voting processes for military and overseas voters, their ability to participate in American elections likely will continue to suffer. Strong popular support exists among the American public to make voting much easier and more reliable for these voters than it has been. A 2008 public opinion survey conducted for the Pew Center on the States found “strong universal support . . . across age, regional, and party lines” for the idea that military and overseas voters should be able to participate in elections “back home.” A variety of stakeholders who participated in the ULC drafting process for this act were overwhelmingly of a similar disposition.
In important part, the obstacles that overseas and military voters face can be traced to the fact that American elections are conducted at the state and local levels under procedures that often vary dramatically by jurisdiction. This lack of uniformity complicates any federal effort, such as the UOCAVA, to assist these voters to surmount the other major obstacles that they face. For instance, while some states permit overseas absentee ballots to arrive up to ten days after Election Day, other states require that all absentee ballots, including those from overseas, be received by Election Day. Meanwhile, some states permit overseas and military voters to request, and in a smaller number of cases also to cast, an absentee ballot electronically, but other states require transmission by regular mail. Some states require a notary or other witness to vouch for the absentee voter’s execution of the absentee ballot affirmation. These and other variations across states both complicate the procedures developed under the UOCAVA to help overseas and military voters, and make it difficult for consular officials, the U.S. military, and non-governmental voting assistance groups to give standard advice to these voters.
In confronting these problems, this act has two independent purposes that can only be achieved through uniform state legislation. The first is to extend to state elections the assistance and protections for military and overseas voters currently found in federal law, which covers only biennial federal elections. The second is to bring greater uniformity to the military and overseas voting processes, which the several states will continue to have primary responsibility for administering, in both federal and non-federal elections. In addition to these two primary purposes, many provisions of the act also enhance the assistance and protections provided to military and overseas voters, wherever this can be done without compromising the integrity of the voting process or imposing inappropriately on election officials.
Critical to both enhancing and bringing uniformity to the voting process for military and overseas voters is establishing adequate time for this group of voters to request, receive, and return a ballot. Directly related to the amount of time needed to accomplish these voting processes is the extent to which electronic transmission mechanisms are employed. The act requires that electronic transmission methods be available for purposes of requesting and receiving unvoted ballots, but does not require the use of electronic means for transmitting voted ballots. This is because no consensus yet exists on the question of whether and how electronic voting can occur securely and privately. However, using electronic transmission methods for just those steps in the absentee voting process prior to the casting of a ballot (such as registering to vote, requesting an absentee ballot, and receiving a blank ballot) can alone dramatically reduce the time required to permit these voters to vote successfully.
Without uniform state legislation, military and overseas voters will continue to confront a panoply of diverging voting requirements, notwithstanding the important role that UOCAVA has played in facilitating military and overseas voting in federal elections for more than two decades, and the additional enhancements that the MOVE Act of 2009 provides. Accordingly, this act should be widely adopted both to simplify the voting process for these voters, and to extend similar protections to state elections not covered by existing federal law.
According to the rules, “Electronic Transmission” means:
(a) For the purpose of sending an unvoted ballot by fax, email, or online delivery to:
(1) A military or overseas elector under Article 8.3 of Title 1, C.R.S.
(2) An elector requesting a replacement for an emergency under section 1-7.5-115, C.R.S.
(3) An affected elector requesting a ballot because of a disaster emergency.
(b)For the purpose of returning a voted ballot to the county clerk fax or email.
The rules define a “blank ballot” as a ballot on which the voter has made no marks in any voting position, has marked with an unreadable marker, or has consistently marked outside of the “read” area of the optical scanner.
1. Definition for Election day
The date either established by law or determined by the governing body of the political subdivision conducting the election, to be the final day on which all ballots are determined to be due, and the date from which all other dates in this article are set.C.R.S. § 1-7.5-103.
2. Definition for Overseas voter
A United States citizen who is outside the United States. C.R.S. § 1-8.3-102.
3. Definition for State
A state of the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands, or any territory or insular possession subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. C.R.S. § 1-8.3-102.
4. Definition for Ballot
(a) A federal write-in absentee ballot;
(b) A ballot specifically prepared or distributed for use by a covered voter in accordance with this article; or
(c) A ballot cast by a covered voter in accordance with this article.
(2) “Covered voter” means:
(a) A uniformed-service voter defined in paragraph (a) of subsection (9) of this section who is a resident of this state but who is absent from this state by reason of active duty and who otherwise satisfies this state’s voter eligibility requirements;
(b) An overseas voter who, before leaving the United States, was last eligible to vote in this state and, except for a state residency requirement, otherwise satisfies this state’s voter eligibility requirements;
(c) An overseas voter who, before leaving the United States, would have been last eligible to vote in this state had the voter then been of voting age and, except for a state residency requirement, otherwise satisfies this state’s voter eligibility requirements; or
(d) An overseas voter who was born outside the United States, is not described in paragraph (b) or (c) of this subsection (2), and, except for a state residency requirement, otherwise satisfies this state’s voter eligibility requirements if the last place where a parent, legal guardian, spouse, or civil union partner of the voter was, or under this article would have been, eligible to vote before leaving the United States is within this state.
C.R.S. § 1-8.3-102.
5. Definition for Person
Any natural person, partnership, committee, association, corporation, labor organization, political party, or other organization or group of persons. Section 2(11) of article XXVIII of the state constitution.
6. 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.
7. Definition for Candidate
Any person who seeks nomination or election to any state or local public office that is to be voted on in this state at any primary election, general election, school district election, special district election, or municipal election. “Candidate” also includes a judge or justice of any court of record who seeks to be retained in office pursuant to the provisions of section 25 of article VI. A person is a candidate for election if the person has publicly announced an intention to seek election to public office or retention of a judicial office and thereafter has received a contribution or made an expenditure in support of the candidacy. A person remains a candidate for purposes of this article so long as the candidate maintains a registered candidate committee. A person who maintains a candidate committee after an election cycle, but who has not publicly announced an intention to seek election to public office in the next or any subsequent election cycle, is a candidate for purposes of this article. Section 2(2) of article XXVIII of the state constitution.