Jefferson County Clerk Pam Anderson will not challenge Secretary of State Scott Gessler in a primary next year, but she has not made up her mind on a possible open seat run.
Anderson talked about her political future with Colorado Community Media on Aug. 17, following a Golden town hall that focused on the sweeping changes to Colorado’s election laws the Legislature put in place earlier this year.
Gessler is exploring a gubernatorial run, but has yet to announce whether he will join a Republican field seeking to unseat Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper in 2014.
An entry into a race for governor would mean Gessler would not seek reelection for his secretary of state seat.
Anderson said that she will “not run against an incumbent,” but that she is keeping all options on the table if Gessler steps aside to pursue a higher office.
“I’m still discussing with my family whether it’s the right thing for me to do personally, to run a statewide campaign,” she said.
Anderson is the head of the Colorado County Clerk’s Association and is seen by many in the GOP establishment as a moderate Republican who would be a change of pace from Gessler, who often is embroiled in controversy and who is seen as a lightning rod in Colorado politics.
“There’s lot of people who I respect and admire, and my county clerks that I work with all the time, who I think would be very supportive (of a secretary of state run),” Anderson said. “And the idea is very appealing to me, because I love this stuff.”
Anderson and Gessler were key characters who played completely different roles when Democrats were moving House Bill 1303, the Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act, through the Legislature this year.
The sweeping reforms that are a part of the bill will allow for Election Day voter registration and the mailing of ballots to every voter in the state, beginning this fall.
The new laws also shorten residency duration requirements for voting. And it does away with a system where “inactive” voters — those who did not vote in the previous election — do not continue to receive mail-in ballots.
Precinct polling places are replaced with voting centers, where anyone can show up and vote.
Gessler and General Assembly Republicans vehemently opposed the legislation, arguing during either marathon-like committee hearings or formal votes that implementation costs would be enormous for many counties and that Election Day registration begs for fraud to be committed.
State Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, once dubbed the bill, The Same Day Voter Fraud Act.
But Anderson was a key supporter of the legislation. She heads a county clerk’s association where 75 percent of its members — a bipartisan group of elected officials — supported the bill.
Anderson told the town hall audience that cases of voter fraud are rare and that a real-time data system will allow election officials to determine if a voter is registered in another state or whether someone is trying to vote multiple times — something that sets Colorado a part from other states that offer Election Day registration.
“We will find out,” Anderson said of any attempts by voters to commit fraud. “And you will be having a really spicy conversation with the district attorney and the attorney general (if suspicions are raised).”
At the same time, Anderson admits that she’s “not a huge fan of Election Day registration.” But it’s not because of concerns over voter fraud. Rather, she would prefer voters to take time to study their ballots before casting a vote.
“My ideal is that people read their blue book, think about the issues, and then go into the polling place,” she said. “But our Constitution doesn’t require an educated voter. It’s a constitutional right to access.”
Anderson believes that the new election laws will save counties money, across the state. She said that she expects Jefferson County to incur an implementation cost as it moves away from 171 precinct polling place to 24 voting centers. However, other voter maintenance savings will supersede any upfront cost, she said.
Overall, Anderson believes that the new election laws are good for Jefferson County and for voters across the state.
“Every system of voting has vulnerabilities,” she said. “What we look at as election administrators is that balance of access and integrity And Colorado is on the cutting edge of that balance.”