In the final week leading to Election Day, county clerks in Southwest Colorado are assuring voters that this year’s election will be fair and aboveboard, no different than previous years.
Colorado voters have participated in mail-in elections for seven years. Local election officials say many checks and balances are in place to prevent voter fraud, such as double voting, computer hacking and misrecording of votes.
In her 24 years as an election clerk, La Plata County Clerk & Recorder Tiffany Parker said she’s seen only two cases of voter fraud, and both were identified and investigated by the district attorney.
A statewide voter registration roll prevents double voting. So if a voter drops off a ballot and 10 minutes later goes to a polling center to vote in-person, only the first-received ballot will be counted. Likewise, if a person mailed in a ballot that has been received, polling centers will have a record of that and won’t issue a new ballot.
In Colorado, ballots can be rejected for reasons such as a late arrival after Election Day or a lack of a signature. In 2018, 0.8% of general election ballots – 19,843 of the more than 2.4 million ballots cast – were rejected, according to state voting records.
Election workers compare and scan voter signatures on ballots with every signature the voter has submitted to the clerk’s office to prevent voter fraud.
If someone has a broken hand or arm, a witness can also sign the ballot and verify the ballot for the voter, said Montezuma County Clerk Kim Percell.
Both Republican and Democratic party leaders test the accuracy of the ballots before the election, and election judges from both parties monitor ballot tallying, Percell said.
President Donald Trump has made unsupported claims that mail-in ballots lead to voter fraud. And Lauren Boebert, Republican candidate for the 3rd Congressional District, has also cast doubt on the integrity of mail-in voting.
But Montezuma County has had few problems with its ballots, Percell said. She is confident the U.S. Postal Service will deliver ballots to the clerk’s office effectively, though the recommended deadline for mailing ballots was Monday. Postmarks do not count. Ballots must be received by 7 p.m. Nov. 3.
Voters are now encouraged to deliver their ballots at designated drop-off locations throughout the five-county region, including Fort Lewis College and two Native American reservations.
Voter service and polling centers will also be open on Election Day, where voters can request a new ballot, drop off their existing ballots and register to vote.
All ballot boxes have 24-hour video surveillance.
Dick Wadhams, a veteran Republican political consultant, said Trump’s rhetoric “can get overheated, just like in this case.”
Colorado’s mail-in voting system has been developed over 20 years, starting with Colorado secretary of state making it easier to vote by absentee ballots, Wadhams said.
But Wadhams said he has concerns about other states without mail-in voting systems already in place “plunging in” during a major, heated election.
“There could be a lot of chaos on Election Day, but not corruption, which is where Trump goes off the rails,” Wadhams said.