COLORADO — To aid Coloradans who have lost a home in a fire or natural disaster, Governor Jared Polis (D-CO) signed a bill (SB22-152) into law Wednesday that would allow displaced homeowners to vote in their original jurisdiction.
Boulder County reported 1,086 homes lost in the Marshall fire, and Southern Colorado is no stranger to these destructive wildfires with 509 homes burnt in the Black Forest and 346 in the Waldo Canyon fire.
So, the Colorado legislature is looking to help those who have lost homes or who may lose homes to natural disasters in the future.
“When you lose your home to a natural disaster, there’s a lot of steps to getting back and we’re trying to address all of them,” said Rep. Matt Gray (D-CO), a sponsor of the bill.
One of those steps was signed into law earlier Wednesday by Gov. Polis.
“The point of this bill was to make sure that… the local elected officials who are going to be able to make the decisions about your getting back into your neighborhood… you’re going to get to help choose who they are,” Rep. Gray said.
Legislators said the new law will allow people to be able to vote like they are currently living in the city they had to leave.
“This guarantees your rights to be able to vote in the place that you lived before or you want to live, not where you were forced to flee to based on a natural disaster,” Rep. Gray said.
It may be a small step, but legislators say it’s an important one. They also said it’s about giving people hope they’ll be back home.
“Hope is a really hard thing to acquire when you’ve been a victim of a disaster and it’s just one little part of it but it’s an important part of it,” Rep. Gray said.
The idea of giving them the ability to vote also helps bring some semblance of control back to their life.
“The right to vote is also the right to participate in the process. You can still drive in and say ‘hey, this person wants to give me a sense of place. This person who’s running for office supports me and I’m voting for this person.'”
While lawmakers said they acknowledge this piece of legislation doesn’t solve everything, they said it’s a step in the right direction to help people get back to their homes.
The bill that was unanimously voted through the House State, Civic, Military, and Veterans Affairs committee on March 28, was sponsored by Sens. Stephen Fenberg, Sonya Jaquez Lewis, and Reps. Matt Gray and Tracey Bernett.
The new law will take effect this year, before the next election in November.