Election 2020 Colorado

Roseann Casey disinfects the voting booths on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, in Avon, Colo. (Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily via AP)

As soon as news broke that Colorado would host Major League Baseball's 2021 All-Star Game, critics angered over MLB's decision to pull the game from Georgia over provisions in a recently signed voting law piled on, taking to social media to make a case that Colorado's system was no better than Georgia's.

"The Wokes are at it again, folks," tweeted Republican U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, who pointed out that both states have voter ID requirements, but that Georgia permits early voting for 17 days while Colorado sets aside just 15 days.

Using a bevy of Twitter abbreviations, Scott argued, MLB was moving the All-Star Game out of Atlanta, even though Georgia has more voting days than Colorado, even under the revised law Georgia adopted last month.

Arkansas Republican U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton went on Fox News Tuesday to argue that Colorado has "even stricter voting regulations" than Georgia.

Democratic U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper, who signed the bulk of the laws governing Colorado's current voting system, was having none of it.

"Colorado has aggressively expanded voting accessibility, while the Georgia GOP is actively restricting it," tweeted Hickenlooper. "That's the difference."

While the two states' voting systems have provisions in common, cherry-picking elements of the two states' laws misses the fact that Colorado and Georgia operate elections in fundamentally different ways that render some of the apples-to-apples comparisons less meaningful.

Unlike Georgia, whose voters primarily vote at polling places and have to request absentee ballots, Colorado has been an all-mail ballot state since 2013, including six years with Republican secretaries of state running the show.

Every registered Colorado voter gets a ballot in the mail, and in recent years the state has expanded access further by adding hundreds of secure, 24-hour drop boxes throughout the state, making it even easier for residents to cast ballots.

According to Georgia's new law, it's illegal for local election officials to mail ballots to all voters, as many did last year during the pandemic.

It shows in the two states' voter turnout, even last year when states throughout the country were looking to Colorado for inspiration to make it easier for voters amid concerns about the coronavirus.

In the 2020 general election, Colorado had the nation's second-highest turnout of eligible voters, at 76.4%, behind Minnesota and just ahead of Maine, while Georgia ranked 25th, with 67.7% of its eligible voters casting ballots. That's according to the University of Florida's Michael P. MacDonald and his United States Election Project, which pegged Oklahoma as the state with the worst turnout, at 55%.

In response to a deluge of what he called "partisan misrepresentations of Colorado’s elections," Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet issued a statement purporting to "set the record straight."

“Unlike anti-democratic politicians in Georgia, Colorado legislators came together in a bipartisan way to make it easier for people to register, receive their ballot, and vote while maintaining the highest standards for election security," he said.

"Instead of making it illegal to give people food and water while they wait in line to vote, Colorado adopted reforms to automatically mail every active voter a ballot with reasonable safeguards for election integrity. It’s why we had the second-highest turnout in America in 2020 with zero evidence of meaningful fraud.We are proud of our elections in Colorado and hope other states can learn from our example.”

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, made a similar point Tuesday.

"The truth is Colorado’s election model works," she said.

"We mail ballots to all voters, have early voting, and same-day voter registration. Voters can participate easily in our elections, which are also the most secure in the nation. Election accessibility and security can go hand-in-hand."

Colorado's universal vote-by-mail system was adopted with bipartisan support and implemented over the years by Republican and Democratic election officials, while Georgia's recent revisions were pushed entirely by Republican lawmakers and signed by GOP Gov. Brian Kemp in a private ceremony.

In an incident that drew national attention, a Democratic legislator was arrested and hauled out of the state Capitol for knocking on the door outside the room where Kemp was signing the sweeping legislation.

Many of the gotcha points listed by critics of Colorado's system don't stand up to scrutiny in a state where roughly 94% of voters cast ballots by using drop boxes or by mail.

The state mails ballots to every registered voter starting 22 days before an election, while Georgia voters must request an absentee ballot, and the new law tightens the deadline to request a ballot from six months to less than three months.

Georgia voters are required to register 28 days before an election, while in Colorado voters can register as late as Election Day and cast ballots.

As for voter ID requirements, Colorado voters have to show an ID for early, in-person voting, but voters have numerous options, including IDs without photos, and can cast a provisional ballot if they don't have an ID.

First-time mail voters also must furnish an ID in Colorado and Georgia, with a range of IDs accepted in both states. Georgia voters, on the other hand, are required to use a small number of acceptable IDs to vote in person and must provide a drivers license number or social security number or copy of a state-issued ID in order to request absentee ballots or to have provisional ballots counted.

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