Jerry Kopel

Feb. 25, 2007

By Jerry Kopel

Everyone who thinks our younger generation should be encouraged to get involved in government and politics, please raise your hands. Alright...that's 100 percent.

The legislature in 1992 and 1993 screwed up when it enacted CRS 1-2-402 in Part 4 of Title I, Article I. The title? "High School Registration".

The title doesn't state PUBLIC high school. The legislative declaration states:

"The purpose of this Part 4 (is) to encourage voter registration by providing convenient registration procedures for qualified high school students (it did not say PUBLIC), employees, and other persons by using high school deputy registrars."

A "public school", including specified types of charter schools under CRS 22-30.5, means a school that derives its support in whole or in part, from money raised by a general state, county, or district tax (CRS 22-1-101).

A "non-public" school means a school organized and maintained by a recognized religious or independent association performing an academic function (CRS 22-2-102).

The school principal picks the high school's deputy registrar, and notifies the county clerk and recorder. The deputy registrar can register anyone, but only on the school premises. Specifically the registrar "may have available an official application form for voter registration for each student who is 18 years old or who will be 18 years at the time of the next election."

The clerk and recorder trains the deputy registrar, provides sufficient registration material, and deals with the registrant in the same fashion as other registrants.

So where is the conflict between  church and state, or between non-public schools and the state?

There are likely thousands of high school students across the state in private schools who are presently being denied the right  provided to public school students to register to vote. 

We don't have the same problem as to the use of  high  school student judges for duty at the polling places at election time. CRS 1-6-101: 

"the county clerk and recorders may work with school districts and public or PRIVATE (emphasis added) secondary educational institutions to identify  students willing and able to  serve as student  election judges..." 

Home-schooled students may apply directly to the clerk and recorder. Student judges have to be 16 years or older.

Is there any constitutional conflict as to students from non-public schools serving as judges? I don't think so.

If the clerk and recorder on his or her own, today, allowed a high school deputy registrar to perform in a non-public school, he or she would have committed a crime "for violating any of the provisions of the election code (CRS 1-13-101)". If found guilty it is "corrupt conduct" (CRS 1-13-107) and punished as a misdemeanor by a fine of $1000 or imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one year or both. (CRS 1-13-111).

Are your children, 16 years or older, getting the benefit of being a student election judge? Ask your clerk and recorder how many there are in your county and if your child can apply. Are your children, 17 or older, registered to vote in 2008? Ask your child's public school principal who is the deputy registrar for the school.  If there is none, make your concern known to your clerk and recorder.

One of my grandchildren, in a Boulder high school, who qualifies by age and who has been heavily involved in student politics, knew nothing of a deputy registrar in her school, or that she could apply to become a student judge.

If a student judge can come from a private school why can't a private school student register on the private school grounds?

Hopefully some legislator this year will correct this error. And hopefully, the House or Senate Education or State Affairs committee (or the state auditor at the request of a committee) can obtain statistics on how may student judges are appointed and how many students are being registered at schools.


(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.) 

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