Between a global pandemic and the resulting expansion of mail voting across the country, 2020 is an unprecedented year for many election officials. Fortunately, here in Colorado, little has changed in the past seven years. This November, our model will do what it has consistently done under Republican and Democratic election officials since 2013: deliver an accessible and secure election.
We know there are questions about the integrity of our elections and of mail-ballot elections in general. As the Republican and Democratic elections co-chairs of the Colorado County Clerks Association, we want you to know that you can continue to vote in Colorado with confidence that your ballot will be counted — accurately and fairly.
At the outset, it is important to remember that Colorado has had universal vote-by-mail elections for seven years. In the last several elections, more than 95% of voters across the state — Republicans, Democrats, unaffiliated and minor-party voters — have used their mail ballot to vote. And as with each of these past elections, we continue to urge Colorado voters to return their ballots to a secure, 24-hour drop box.
Not only are drop boxes accessible and safe — many do not even require you to get out of your car —they are also secure. Every drop box in the state is under 24/7 video surveillance, and ballots are collected by bipartisan teams of election judges who have undergone background checks. These judges follow strict chain-of-custody protocols when transporting ballots back to each county’s secure ballot processing facilities.
While drop boxes are the fastest way to get your ballot back to us, some voters find it more convenient to use the U.S. Postal Service. Our association has a strong relationship with our partners at the USPS, and we are confident that election mail will arrive securely and efficiently. Indeed, most voters throughout the state received their ballots from us in just a couple of days. If you choose to return your ballot by mail, be sure to do so no later than Oct. 26 and affix adequate postage to your envelope.
Voters who need additional assistance may also choose to vote in person. All counties have now begun opening their in-person Voter Service and Polling Centers, where Coloradans can use accessible voting machines, receive a replacement ballot, or register to vote or update their voter registration. Clerks across the state have taken additional safety precautions to protect voters and staff against COVID-19. But we want to make it clear: Voting in person is no more secure than using a drop box or the mail, and it costs your county considerably more money in voting equipment, election judge, and site rental expenses. So, for everyone’s safety and to save taxpayer dollars, we encourage you to avoid in-person voting and use your mail ballot instead. If you must come in, in person, we strongly recommend voting early.
Once we have received your ballot, every county follows strict security protocols in processing it. First, just as with transporting the ballots, all ballot processing is performed by teams of background-checked, bipartisan judges. Before your ballot envelope is even opened, our judges verify the signature on the envelope against a signature we have on file for a registered voter who has proven their identity to us. All of these processes are open to watchers from the various political parties so they can verify the transparency and security of the election for themselves. Additionally, we use bipartisan boards to test our election equipment prior to each election, ensuring that the machines are operating correctly and that all votes are counted accurately. And that bipartisan board also helps each county audit the results of the election after the fact.
Voters across the state can also now confirm for themselves that their ballot was received and processed by using the statewide BallotTrax system. At Colorado.ballottrax.net, voters can check the status of their ballot, and sign up for text message, email, or phone alerts when their local office receives and accepts their ballot for counting.
There’s good reason that experts across the political spectrum regard Colorado as one of the safest states in which to cast a ballot. We are proud not only of this exemplary security, but also of our state’s consistently high turnout. So, let’s keep it up, Colorado! Go vote, and together, we can set a general election turnout record this year.
George Stern is the Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder. Chuck Broerman is the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder.