File numbers of People are voting by mail this election. In Colorado, voters aren’t seeing a lot of a change.
In Colorado, which adopted voting by mail statewide in 2013, election officers mail a poll to each registered voter at election time. It’s one in all 5 states, together with Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington, that embraced such a system even earlier than this year’s coronavirus pandemic.
“We’ve been social distancing earlier than it was cool, with our mail-in ballots,” stated Denver Clerk and Recorder Paul López, a registered Democrat whose workplace is formally nonpartisan. “We’ve achieved this degree of resilience, to the purpose the place we even pleasure ourselves on being pandemic-proof.”
With the pandemic, the usage of mail ballots has skyrocketed with the objective of easing potential crowding at in-person voting areas. One other 4 states—California, Nevada, New Jersey and Vermont—plus the District of Columbia, switched to mailing all registered voters ballots. Most different states allowed any voter to request a mail poll forward of the November election; a couple of others require voters to fulfill sure standards or have a preapproved cause to vote absentee.
The hovering use of mail ballots presents logistical challenges. Many states and counties have raced to beef up their ballot-counting programs and election workers to deal with the upper quantity.
Colorado’s expertise serves as a information for the way voting by mail works, from sending ballots out to counting them. Right here’s a glance inside one Colorado election workplace, the Denver Elections Division, this election.
Beginning Oct. 9, the Denver Elections Division started mailing a poll to each energetic registered voter within the county; energetic registered voters are these for whom the county says it has an up-to-date tackle. As of per week earlier than Election Day, Denver has despatched out about 456,000 ballots, in accordance with Alton Dillard, an elections division spokesman.
Voters additionally produce other choices. Denver opened 36 websites for in-person voting this election and permits voters to register for in-person voting by way of Election Day.
To return the ballots, voters can drop them within the mail or use drop bins situated throughout Denver. Colorado units a deadline of seven p.m. on Election Day for the receipt of ballots.
Ballots positioned in drop bins, for instance, are retrieved by groups of election employees and brought to the Denver Elections Division’s major workplace downtown. Election employees make use of a number of measures to make sure safety, together with padlocking the bins holding ballots and sealing these bins.
Colorado counties are permitted to start processing the ballots upon receipt, permitting election employees to start out verifying voter signatures and opening the envelopes.
Not all states enable election officers to do such processing previous to Election Day, together with two swing states, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, so counting and saying outcomes are prone to take longer there. Colorado’s strategy saves time in counting and releasing outcomes.
Signature verification is used to forestall poll fraud. In Denver, election employees obtain coaching in handwriting evaluation to match the signature voters are required to placed on poll envelopes with one on file. Signatures in Colorado Division of Motor Autos information are usually used, although samples may be drawn from voter-registration kinds and different information, Mr. Dillard stated.
In keeping with the Colorado Secretary of State’s workplace, if a group of election employees deem the signature a mismatch, state legislation requires the county to inform the voter and provide an opportunity to appropriate the difficulty so the poll might be counted. Members of these groups are drawn from totally different political events or are unaffiliated to maintain partisanship in verify, Mr. Dillard stated.
Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, just lately introduced a brand new system to permit voters to repair signature discrepancies by utilizing a smartphone to supply the required info and signal an affidavit. She stated signature discrepancies disproportionately have an effect on youthful voters. Inexperienced voters and racial minorities additionally are typically disproportionately affected, in accordance with analysis by College of Florida political-science professor Daniel Smith .
Some fraction of mail ballots are disqualified each election for non-matching signatures or different errors. Round 1% of mail ballots had been disqualified nationally within the 2016 basic election, in accordance with the federal U.S. Election Help Fee. Denver rejected 0.7% in that election, Mr. Dillard stated.
To organize the ballots for counting, they have to be separated from the envelopes. The Denver Elections Division does this by utilizing ballot-extraction machines. Election employees then manually put together the ballots for scanning by unfolding and flattening them.
Ballots are dealt with in accordance with detailed procedures that embrace record-keeping which tracks the variety of ballots obtained and logging batches of ballots as they transfer by way of the counting course of.
The Denver Elections Division gives a live stream of ballot-processing rooms on its web site, so voters can view the method in real-time. The groups of election employees deal with transporting the ballots between totally different rooms throughout the division.
After these safety checks and processing steps, the poll is then scanned and counted. Tabulation could start 15 days earlier than Election Day in Colorado. Denver’s outcomes are saved on a server housed in a safe space and monitored by video, amongst different safety measures. Outcomes are solely permitted to be introduced after 7 p.m. on Election Day when polls shut.
Mr. López, Denver’s Clerk and Recorder, known as Colorado’s voting system resilient even amid the coronavirus. “Democracy will not be going to fall to a pandemic,” he stated. “Individuals are nonetheless going to have the ability to vote, and individuals are nonetheless going to have the ability to have their voices heard.”