DENVER – A lengthy list of safeguards is in place to protect against ballot fraud in Colorado, despite claims by Republican Donald Trump that the election is easily rigged.
La Plata County Clerk and Recorder Tiffany Lee Parker, a Republican, said a bipartisan team of judges – appointed by the Democratic and Republican parties – monitors each step of the tabulation process, providing multiple levels of oversight.
Secretary of State Wayne Williams, also a Republican, is calling Trump’s remarks inaccurate, pointing to layers of protections.
Trump has seized on battleground Colorado’s first year of all-mail voting – though voters have the option to vote in person.
At campaign stops in Golden and Greeley over the weekend, Trump alleged that elections officials might improperly toss ballots to force a certain result, adding that he has “real problems with ballots being sent” by mail, and encouraged voters to vote in person.
“The one thing I worry about is the ballots,” Trump said ahead of a rally at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.
His remarks fit a shocking narrative that he pushed at the final presidential debate, when Trump said he might not accept the results of next week’s election. He later doubled down, saying he would accept the results of next month’s election if he wins, adding that he reserves the right to challenge results.
A spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s Office, Lynn Bartels, came out swinging when Trump began to allude to the potential of a rigged election.
“I can say on Twitter I’m a super model, but that doesn’t make it so,” Bartels said in reported comments.
Ballots that are received are under continuous surveillance, brought to the tabulation process by a bipartisan team, including one Republican and one Democrat.
In La Plata County – as with other offices – a pair of bipartisan judges will first date, stamp and log the received ballots, which are then entered into the statewide registration database.
Another set of bipartisan election judges then begin the signature-verification process. Judges comb through each signature on every ballot, which in La Plata County is a manual process, rather than automated.
If a discrepancy is noticed, if a signature doesn’t match the signature on record, then the ballot is placed into a cure process, in which the voter is notified by a letter and by email, if an email address is provided.
Voters have until Nov. 16 to cure their ballot. If there is no cure, the vote is not counted.
“This system works. In the most recent general election, 10,000 attempts to vote without a matching signature were prevented,” Bartels said.
Ballots that have been signature verified and validated go to the processing team, another bipartisan team that inspects ballots to ensure that they will be read correctly through the tabulation machines. Judges look for the intent of the voter, despite a mark that might not have been completely filled in, a coffee spill or a slight rip.
Those inspected ballots are counted and logged. A tracking sheet follows envelopes all the way through the process, until the ballot is separated from its envelope.
Finally, ballots are sent to another set of bipartisan judges, who put the ballots through tabulation machines, which are not connected to the internet and are audited before and after the election.
Once at the machines, ballots are again counted, audited and documented.
As for fears that multiple ballots are being sent to voters, clerks are required to track every ballot sent. So, if a voter comes in and says they lost their ballot and they need another, the original ballot would be voided, and the voter would be sent a new one.
Clerks can cancel ballots coming from outside counties, meaning clerks can see if voters already voted in another county. Voters attempting to vote twice risk prosecution.
The public can ask to observe the process, adding one more oversight.
Earlier this year, reports were raised of votes cast in the names of dead Coloradans. But of the half-dozen incidents, no recent cases were identified.
The state compares voter data with the state health department and Social Security records to ensure voters who have died are cleared from the rolls.
On the federal side, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Colorado appointed a District Election Officer, who is responsible for overseeing complaints of election fraud and voting rights abuses. It is a long-standing program.
Parker called Trump’s claims “disappointing and frustrating.” She said it has impacted morale, but Parker reminds staff that they should be “proud and hold our heads high.”
“There’s so many checks and balances that we have in place, and there are so many people involved in it,” Parker said. “I don’t understand where this rigging thing is coming from.”