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Federal judge rejects challenge to Colorado ballot identification process

A judge for the US District Court for the District of Colorado [official website] on Friday dismissed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] filed by an elections transparency group aiming to prevent Colorado counties from using election ballots that have identifying numbers or bar codes printed on them. The Citizen Center [advocacy website] filed the lawsuit in February seeking an injunction and declaratory judgment requiring Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler [official website] and the counties of Boulder, Jefferson, Larimer, Mesa, Eagle and Chaffee to refrain from using such ballots because they allegedly can be traced back to individual voters. The election activists claim that US law prevents governments, not just fellow citizens, from being able to trace a voter's ballot. Judge Christine Arguello first denied Citizen Center's request for a temporary restraining order [motion, PDF] to prevent three counties from printing ballots with barcodes or identifying numerals, then she dismissed the entire complaint because the plaintiffs had not shown that they had suffered or would suffer [Denver Post report] any specific injury that could be remedied by a federal court. Arguello went on to state that the US Constitution [Cornell LII materials] does not guarantee a right to a secret vote and that merely demonstrating that a ballot could be traced back to an individual voter does not demonstrate that the individual's voting rights were violated.

Voting rights are a controversial issue this year with the recent spate of voter identification laws from state legislatures. There are now 32 US states [NCSL backgrounder] that require voters to present some form of ID at the polls, and the issue remains controversial. Last week the Pennsylvania Supreme Court remanded to a lower court a challenge to Pennsylvania's new voter identification law [JURIST report]. Last month a three-judge panel in the US District Court for the District of Columbia unanimously rejected a Texas law [JURIST report] requiring voters to present photo ID to election officials before casting their ballots. In May the ACLU of Minnesota filed a petition [JURIST report] sought to eliminate a proposed ballot initiative that would amend the Minnesota Constitution to require citizens to present photo identification in order to vote.

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