Landlords May Be Compelled To Turn Renters Into Voters

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A Colorado city is considering a measure to require landlords to provide new tenants with voter registration information or face a fine.

The city of Westminster’s proposal is meant to boost voter participation, Mayor Pro Tem Faith Winter told the Denver Post, but others say its an unfunded mandate that puts governmental responsibilities on the shoulders of private businesses.

“This is not [the landlords’] burden,” Councilman Bruce Baker is quoted as saying. “This is our responsibility as a city government.”

The new rule would require property management companies to include a sheet of information about how to register to vote in the informational packets provided to new renters. The measure would also require the city utility to include the information in energy bills for new homeowners.

Failing to provide the information would result in a $1,000 fine.

“The more people are involved in the city, the more people participate in democracy, the stronger a city and country we’re going to have,” Winter told the Post. “For the benefits it provides, it’s a small ask to have them add a sheet of paper or a PDF to their welcome packet.”

If it passes, the measure may be the first in the country requiring landlords to provide such information. A similar measure passed for the city of Madison, Wisc., in 2012, the Post reported, but it was overturned the following year.

Some observers said the proposed rule is nothing more than “naked political ambition,” noting that one council member joked that landlords should also tell new renters to vote for her.

“Now is not the time to increase paperwork or regulation on any Colorado business,” said Kelly Maher, executive director of Compass Colorado, in a press release. “This measure is clearly about the Westminster City council members trying to win elections, not about  ‘civic participation’ as they claim. Citizens of Westminster should be disappointed in their city council members.”

In face of the criticism, the effective date of the new rule, if it’s adopted, was changed from July 1 to Jan. 1 to avoid the election.

The council will vote on the proposal on June 9.

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