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Zirpoli: A tale of two states’ voting laws: Colorado makes it easy to vote, Georgia does the opposite | COMMENTARY

It was a good thing that Major League Baseball moved its All-Star Game from Georgia to Colorado in protest of a new voting suppression law recently passed in Georgia. The move shines a light on what Colorado has done to expand voter participation and how it achieved the nation’s second-highest voter participation rate in the last presidential election.

Colorado is a model for other states who are seriously interested in making it easier for Americans to vote. What they are doing, compared to Georgia and other Republican-controlled states, is a good thing for democracy because it has proven to increase voter participation.

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If you were to listen to Fox News — and I don’t recommend it — you might think that voting opportunities in Georgia were better than those in Colorado. But you would be wrong and that’s what you get for listening to Fox News. This is, however, the message that Georgia Republicans are trying to sell.

Colorado believes that voting should be made easier for its citizens and that it is not the government’s job to put up obstacles to voting. For example, in Colorado, every eligible voter automatically receives a ballot in the mail. “We mail ballots to all voters” states Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold to HuffPost.com. How easy is that?

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Under Georgia’s new voter suppression law, citizens have to apply for a mail-in ballot and it is illegal for state officials to send ballot applications — never mind a ballot — to voters unless they ask for one. Why should anyone have to ask to vote in the United States of America? States have a good idea of who is and is not eligible. If you want to expand voting, send all eligible voters a ballot, encourage them to vote, and make it easy for them to return their ballots.

Once citizens of Colorado receive and complete their ballot, they can be mailed back or placed in one of 368 ballot drop boxes that are accessible 24 hours a day. According to Colorado election officials, 94% of voters in Colorado mailed their ballots or placed them in a dropbox in 2020. And they made this easy by having one ballot box per 9,400 registered voters.

In Georgia, the new law limits ballot boxes in several ways. First, the law calls for one ballot box per 100,000 voters per county compared to every 9,400 voters in Colorado. For the people living in Atlanta, the new law cuts the number of ballot drop boxes from the 94 they had in 2020 to just 23. In addition, instead of the boxes being accessible 24 hours per day, as they are in Colorado, the Georgia law limits access to ballot boxes by placing them inside government office buildings available only during business hours. Thus, if you work during the day, you can’t deposit your ballot after hours.

Fox News is keen to tell us that Georgia offers 17 in-person voting days compared to Colorado’s 15. True enough. But what they are not reporting is that 94% of Coloradans vote by mail or drop their ballots in ballot boxes. They don’t need many voting days. In Georgia, since they don’t automatically receive mail-in ballots, millions of voters have to vote in person and have only 17 days to do it.

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The Colorado Sun calculated that with only 6% of the people in Colorado voting in person, less than 200,000 people would need to vote within the 15 days allotted. That’s about 13,000 people per day. However, since voting by mail is difficult in Georgia, an estimated 2.7 million Georgians will need to vote in person during their 17 days allotted or about 158,000 people per day. That’s a significant difference and detail you will not hear from Georgia Republicans.

In 2020, according to Statista.com, Colorado had the second-highest voter turnout in the nation — second to Minnesota — with a 76.4 percent voter participation rate. Georgia’s voter turnout was 67.7 percent and that was before their recently approved voter suppression law. Republican-controlled states made up nine of the bottom ten states for voter participation in 2020 as reported by Statista.com.

Kudos to Republicans in Kentucky who increased voting opportunities in their state with a recently approved law. Their Democratic governor and Republican legislature worked together and increase voting opportunities for their citizens. America needs more of this and less of what is happening in Georgia and some other states. The core of our democracy — the ability to vote — is on the line.

Tom Zirpoli is the coordinator of the Human Services Management graduate program at McDaniel College. He writes from Westminster. His column appears Wednesdays. Email him at tzirpoli@mcdaniel.edu.

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