As Election Day Nov. 3 grows near, ballots are flowing into drop boxes and are arriving via mail to the Montezuma County Clerk’s Office.
Colorado is a mail-ballot state, and all active registered voters are sent a ballot.
Of the 18,270 ballots mailed out Oct. 9, 7,396 had been returned as of Friday, said Montezuma County Clerk and Recorder Kim Percell, already a 40% voter turnout with 11 days to go.
“Turnout is always higher in a presidential election, and this time is no different,” Percell said.
Ballots can be dropped at drop boxes, Clerk’s Office, Vote Service Polling Centers or returned by mail.
The last day to mail in your ballot is Oct. 26 for it to arrive by Nov. 3 at 7 p.m. Postmarks do not count.
Of the ballots returned by Friday, about 6,500 were dropped off in official drop boxes positioned throughout the county, and about 850 arrived to the clerk via mail.
The 24-hour ballot drop-off boxes are at the Clerk’s Office, Cortez City Hall, Dolores Town Hall, Mancos Town Hall, Towoac Tribal Office Complex and Cox Conoco in Lewis. All ballot boxes have 24-hour video surveillance.
Percell expects thousands of ballots to arrive before Nov. 3.
Voters can register to vote and receive a ballot up to and on Election Day. They can do so at the Clerk’s Office during the week and on the next two Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
On Election Day, voter registration and ballots will be available at the Clerk’s Office in Cortez and at Vote Service Polling Centers at the Dolores Public Library, Mancos Public Library and at the Towaoc Recreation Center.
“If you did not receive a ballot, need to register to vote, or spoiled your ballot, call us or come and see us,” Percell said.
Fraud and COVID-19 preventionCOVID-10 precautions are in place at the four Election Day polling places, and fraud prevention is built into the ballot processing system, Percell said.
Only five voters at a time are allowed into a Vote Service Polling Center. Masks are recommended for voters, and social distancing is required. Sanitizer will be available, and election staff are required to wear masks, Percell said.
The ballot count process has multiple steps, all overseen by a team of election judges to ensure an accurate count and to prevent fraud.
Signature verification and voter registration records track voter activity. The ballot signature must correlate with the voter signature that is on record. Forging a ballot signature is a felony offense.
Individual ballots also are checked against computer voter registration rolls. When a ballot is received, accepted and validated, the system records that the registered voter has voted.
If the same person tries to vote again with another ballot, the computer will reject the additional ballot.
An alert will inform election judges when a voter submits more than one ballot, and the name of the voter will be turned over to the 6th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, Percell said.
The rules at polling stationsPoll watchers are allowed to observe elections, but they must go through a training process with the Colorado Secretary of State and have credentials, Percell said. No poll watchers have indicated they plan to observe the election process in Montezuma County, she said.
Under election law, campaigning or campaign material is prohibited within 100 feet of a polling center or drop box. This includes hats, shirts, buttons, bumper stickers and flags.
Percell said judges make regular sweeps around drop boxes and polling centers to enforce the rules.
“People have been cooperative, and we hope that continues,” she said.
The 100-foot limit at the Clerk’s Office extends to the sidewalk across Main Street.
Every year on Election Day, the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office monitors activity at polling centers and drop boxes.
During a recent election, someone put a sticky note with a message on one of the ballot boxes. Law enforcement reviewed the video surveillance and conducted an investigation.
“We take security very seriously,” Percell said.
The county has had no security breaches in the election process, she said. The county information technology department has been monitoring for security issues and is in regular contact with the Colorado Secretary of State.
The counting process beginsElection judges have begun the counting process and have kept up with the flow of ballots, Percell said. Preliminary, unofficial results will be released as the final count progresses after polls close Nov. 3 at 7 p.m.
If there are too many ballots still to count by midnight, the count will be suspended until the morning, Percell said.
Montezuma County brought in additional election judges to handle the large volume of ballots expected during the presidential election.
The county has 10 tabulation judges, up from five. The corps of judges is made up of six transport judges who pick up ballot boxes, 13 Vote Service Polling Center judges and six audit judges.
The county has two ballot tabulation scanners.
The Clerk’s Office is well prepared and is confident in the election process, Percell said.
“Colorado has been doing mail-in ballots system for seven years. We have worked hard at it and made improvements. It is something we are all proud of,” she said.