Nothing you shouldn't have expected from Colorado's freshly sworn-in Secretary of State Wayne Williams, but national liberal blog Think Progress reports on Williams' priority as Secretary of State: whatever voter ID law he can get.
Wayne Williams (R) was sworn in this week as Colorado’s Secretary of State, and has already begun pushing for laws to make voters show photo identification before they can cast a ballot. “I think most Coloradans are honest and law-abiding and follow the rules, but I think it’s important to have the processes in place to protect the election system so that people have confidence in it,” Williams told Colorado Public Radio in an interview over the weekend.
He added that because Democrats still control the governor’s mansion and state house, passage of such a law is unlikely, but offered that he’d be willing to settle for rules requiring a photo ID for Coloradans taking advantage of the state’s same-day voter registration. “This is someone we’ve never seen before. We don’t have any proof they are who they claim to be,” he said.
Studies show such a law targeting same-day registration would disproportionately impact voters who are younger, lower income, non-white, and newly naturalized.
There have been no reports to suggest any problem with the execution of Colorado's modernized election laws in 2014, including the administration of same-day registration. Even Williams' predecessor Scott Gessler, one of the most vocal critics of the 2013 legislation that revamped Colorado's election system, grudgingly admits that the system overall worked pretty well. With that in mind, nothing about same-day registration overcomes the well-documented problems with requiring a photo ID to carry out the constitutional right to vote. In the absence of any actual problem, there's simply no reason to impose this burden–except to make it harder to vote.
But as Think Progress continues, Williams is all about making it harder to vote, even where that means breaking campaign pledges:
Williams’ campaign centered on his reputation as a “champion of access and transparency in government” and his promise to “ensure voter access to the polls” — though he did express support for voter ID laws during his run for office. He also often touted his record of making voting more convenient as a county clerk: “We have worked with all parties and groups to ensure that our polling locations are located in easy to reach locations and we’ve exceeded legal requirements by opening more locations and opening them for longer hours. As a result of these efforts, more citizens have voted than ever before in my county.”
After winning the race, he flipped on this point as well, telling Colorado Public Radio that too many polling locations were open for too many hours in this past election. “That’s not really a very cost-effective way and there certainly wasn’t a demand for it,” he said, adding that he hopes to give counties “flexibility at the local level” to decide when and where polling locations should be available.
During the 2013 recall elections, Williams came under fire for severely limiting voting locations and hours in Senate District 11. After mail ballots for the recalls were disallowed in court on a technicality, having convenient locations and hours for voters to cast ballots became far more important. Despite this, Williams' polling centers in El Paso County opened days after their counterparts in Pueblo–and in Manitou Springs, a stronghold for recalled Sen. John Morse, a vote center didn't open until the Monday before the election.
In that case, anyway, the "flexibility" Williams wanted was flexibility to game the system.
Bottom line: Williams gets a little space as a new Secretary of State to get his agenda together, but we can't forget that this is the same Wayne Williams who made a nationwide joke of himself last October–reaching for excuses to question mail ballots that were simply laughable. Suffice to say, whatever Williams ends up proposing had better be backed up with hard evidence or it will go nowhere. After Williams' embarrassing failure to gin up scandal on FOX News–not to mention four years his predecessor spent making wild allegations about vote fraud in Colorado that were totally unfounded–he starts with basically zero credibility.
And we have a strong suspicion that is where he will remain.