Misinformation curveballs about Colorado’s election laws are flying around social media after Major League Baseball decided to move its All-Star Game to Denver from Georgia.
The league made the decision after Georgia’s legislature overhauled its election laws in ways that many critics argue will make voting more difficult, especially for people of color and for lower-income neighborhoods.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred characterized moving the Midsummer Classic “as the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport,” according to ESPN. Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp responded by repeatedly — and falsely — saying Colorado’s voter laws are more restrictive than Georgia’s.
The Colorado Sun analyzed some of the claims made in recent days comparing voting laws in the two states. Here’s what we found.
Voting before Election Day and mail ballots
Colorado, whose voting system has been praised by Democrats and Republicans, has 15 days of in-person early voting compared with 17 in Georgia. But there’s a lot more to the story than two days.
For one, Colorado automatically mails a ballot to every active registered voter 22 days before Election Day in an “all-option” voting system, according to Boulder County Clerk and Recorder Molly Fitzpatrick. This means that voters can cast their ballots by mail, by returning their ballot to a dropbox or by voting in person.
“By treating every single voter the same and just mailing every voter a ballot, that’s one of the biggest things that’s moved the needle,” Fitzpatrick said.
By contrast, voters in Georgia must request an absentee ballot if they don’t plan to vote in person. The state’s new voting law cut by more than half the period during which voters can request an absentee ballot to less than three months from more than six months.
Georgia election officials are also now barred from automatically mailing absentee ballot applications to all voters.
The availability of mail-in or drop-off ballots also influences the number of people going to physical polling places.
Almost 94% of Coloradans voted by mail or dropbox in the 2020 election, whereas just one-third of Georgia voters cast their ballots by mail. For numerical comparison, that’s 198,645 Coloradans voting in person versus more than 2.7 million Georgians. That often results in long lines at Georgia polling places — something rarely seen in Colorado.
In other words, offering two extra days of in-person polling for hundreds of thousands more voters is “a false equivalency,” said Tammy Patrick, a senior adviser to the Democracy Fund, a nonpartisan foundation that, among other things, advocates for free and fair elections.
Voter ID laws
Both Colorado and Georgia require some form of identification to cast a ballot. However, Colorado makes it far easier.
In-person voters in Colorado must show ID to cast their ballots. This can be a traditional state-issued ID or a passport, or they can provide another document to prove their identity and Colorado residency, such as a birth certificate, bank statement, utility bill, or an employee or student ID.
First-time Colorado voters who are voting by mail or dropping off their ballot may have to include a photocopy of a form of identification if they didn’t register using an ID.
In Georgia, voters who cast a ballot in person must show a form of photo identification.
Georgia’s new law now requires voters submitting an absentee ballot — also known as a mail ballot — to always submit a copy of a form of identification, though it doesn’t necessarily have to be a photo ID.
Other key voting-law differences
Georgia’s new voting law reduces the number of ballot dropboxes to one per 100,000 voters in a county, or one per early voting site, whichever is fewer. For example, if a county has five polling locations but only 300,000 voters, it would only be allowed to have three dropboxes.
“It errs on the side of underserving,” said Patrick, who advises the elections team at the Democracy Fund.
This news first appeared in The Unaffiliated. Subscribe here to get the twice-weekly political newsletter from The Colorado Sun.
In contrast, Colorado has minimum requirements for the number of dropboxes per county. Depending on the county’s population, there must be one dropbox for every 12,500 to 15,000 voters.
Meanwhile, Colorado lets voters register on the same day as they cast their ballot, up to and including Election Day. Georgia does not.
Georgia’s new law prohibits people from providing “any money or gifts, including, but not limited to, food and drink” to anyone standing in line to vote. Colorado has electioneering laws that prohibit people from trying to influence voters’ decisions near polling places and ballot dropboxes, but there is no prohibition on giving people food and drink.
The Colorado Sun has no paywall, meaning readers do not have to pay to access stories. We believe vital information needs to be seen by the people impacted, whether it’s a public health crisis, investigative reporting or keeping lawmakers accountable.
This reporting depends on support from readers like you. For just $5/month, you can invest in an informed community.