The goal of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) is to increase participation in federal elections by reducing barriers to voter registration and requiring states to play an active role in registering their citizens.
Since the NVRA first went into effect in 1995, millions of citizens have registered to vote or updated their registration using services required by the Act. However, there is still much work to be done to fulfill the goals of this legislation. Colorado, like many states, has significant room for improvement in the number of its citizens who are registered to vote.
Project Vote's analysis of Census Bureau data finds that approximately 900,000 eligible voters in Colorado remain unregistered. Despite this shortcoming, we detail in this report evidence indicating that Colorado has not fully complied with important portions of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) - and state law implementing the NVRA - that could register thousands, if not tens of thousands, of new voters this year alone. Those provisions, located in Section 7 of the Act, require voter registration to be provided in public assistance offices throughout the state.
This report, one in a series of reports on NVRA compliance in the states, reviews Colorado's voter registration performance in public assistance offices and examines possible explanations for the state's consistently poor results since the NVRA was enacted. We conclude that many public assistance offices are failing to offer voter registration as required by federal and state voting rights laws. Recommendations for improving Colorado's compliance with these important laws are provided at the end of this report. Fortunately, officials in Colorado have recently begun to take steps to improve their NVRA compliance.
The cooperation of Colorado's Secretary of State's office and Department of Human Services with Project Vote's NVRA technical assistance staff is a welcomed sign. If Colorado's actions take a similar course to those in states such as North Carolina, which has been working with Project Vote and Demos to improve agency registration, we can expect to see significant increases in the number of voter registration applications originating from Colorado's public assistance agencies.