Democratic caucuses: Senators, faith leaders encourage participation, decry vote suppression

In a 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, African-Americans and other minority citizens secured the right to vote. To honor their efforts, Colorado Democratic lawmakers, faith leaders and march veterans are urging citizens to utilize their voting rights by participating in tonight's Democratic Caucus. But they are also warning of possible restrictions that may direct voters away from the ballot box.

In a press conference Monday, Democratic lawmakers expressed concern for a newly proposed legislation that would shorten the number of days a person has to cast his ballot. Rick Palacio, Colorado Democratic Party Chairman, says the legislation is an attempt to "make it harder for American citizens to exercise their constitutional right to vote."

Palacio added that at the ballot box, "Americans won't be faced with night sticks," as marchers once were. "They'll instead be faced with new laws written by the Republican legislature and the Secretary of State.

"Just a few short months ago," he continued, "Colorado's own congressman, Mike Coffman, introduced legislation to repeal parts of the voting rights act passed in 1965."

Senator Lucia Guzman stood in front of faith leaders from the Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance -- some of whom participated in the 1965 march -- and vowed to carry the same energy of the civil rights marches into the election. "We are here, the inheritors of the march, the inheritors of those folks that have come on before us," she said. "So I want to personally say to my colleagues in the legislature that I will do -- and we will do -- everything we need to do.... If we need to disapprove in any way we can, any legislation that will block the freedom of voting for all of our people, that's what we're going to do."

Senator Irene Augilar, who worked to pass a bill that would make it illegal to disseminate false information about voting criteria, says she's worried people are being intentionally misled to change the outcome of the vote. "Back in 2008, some elderly people got misinformation about where to vote, and in 2010, students at Colorado College were told that if they voted, it would effect their residency requirements," she says. "If you are going to win in the United States, you have to win fairly. You've got to win with everybody's vote."

Tonight, beginning at 7 p.m., Democrats will caucus at designated locations across the state to elect delegates to the county assembly and county conventions. To find out your designated caucus location, visit the Colorado Democrats website.

More from our Politics archive: "Ryan Call on why Colorado Republican caucuses mean more than ever."

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