Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold visited Durango on Tuesday touting the benefits of the state’s long-established mail-in voting system.
With COVID-19 rapidly changing electoral processes across the nation, she said she is frequently fielding calls from peers across the country looking to learn from Colorado’s experience.
One state, she said, failed to have a curing process – a procedure in which a voter can fix a ballot that is initially rejected for various issues, including a signature that doesn’t match the voter’s signature on record.
“We don’t want a mail-in ballot to be a disenfranchising factor. If a voter has had a stroke, and their signature has changed, it shouldn’t be an impediment to voting,” she said.
Griswold was in Southwest Colorado on Tuesday to meet with the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe to ensure electoral needs are met on tribal lands ahead of the November’s General Election.
Voting service centers, where voters can cast in-person ballots, will be opened on Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute lands for the November elections and both tribes will also have drop-off boxes, she said.
Colorado set a record for primary turnout in June at 45.66%, a testament to the ability of mail-in ballots to increase voter participation, she said.
More than 40% of voters who cast ballots in June’s primary were younger than 34, showing younger and first-time voters are increasingly participating.
Mail-in ballots will be front and center in November.
In 2016, Griswold said 20% of voters across the country cast mail-in ballots. Spurred by COVID-19 concerns, she anticipated 80% of ballots cast nationwide will be mailed in for the November election.
Griswold said her office has prepared for Election Day disasters – conducting four disaster simulations, looking at how the office would handle situations such as blizzards and other natural disasters, electric grid failures and voter misinformation campaigns.
“We want to make sure we are prepared,” she said. “We have a really good election system. But things can happen, and we don’t want to get complacent. We want to stay alert and ensure nothing crops up.”
Griswold called for the state to fund cybersecurity measures, especially for smaller counties more vulnerable to ransom attacks and other nefarious digital attacks.
She said two ransom attacks have managed to get into Colorado county computer systems in the past year. Neither case saw the county clerk and recorder’s office software violated.
With mail-in ballots set to go out beginning Oct. 9, Griswold said there is a chance that voters who cast their ballots early might be burned by late-breaking, bombshell news that might have changed their vote in a particular race.
Once a ballot is cast in Colorado, there is no logistical way for voters to retract their ballot and recast their vote.
Election officials recommend voters use drop-off boxes rather than mail in their ballots eight days or closer to the Nov. 3 General Election to ensure their ballots arrive before the 7 p.m. Election Day deadline.