By Patty Nieberg, Associated Press/Report for America
Strengthening efforts to counter the Trump administration’s baseless narrative that mail balloting is rife with fraud, elections officials in Denver, Seattle and a growing number of cities are giving voters live video of their ballot processing in a symbolic effort to assure voter trust in the November election.
In Denver, the effort by that city’s Elections Division complements an aggressive campaign by Colorado’s Democratic Secretary of State, Jena Griswold, to tell the nation that the state’s all-mail voting, long embraced by both Republicans and Democrats, is efficient, secure and has generated record numbers of people voting.
Starting Monday, citizens can watch live 24-hour camera footage from the room where Denver ballots are received and counted at Denvervotes.org. The camera won’t be close enough to identify individual ballots or disclose voter information.
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Watching people sort and stuff reams of paper might not make for the most compelling viewing. But in this highly charged presidential election year — and heated national debate over a vote count that could take record time as more states adopt mail balloting — the public should be informed about the process, said Amber McReynolds, CEO of the National Vote at Home Institute and Coalition, an advocacy group pushing for a nationwide vote-by-mail electoral system.
“It definitely directly pushes back on those that want to cast doubt in the election process. And so while it’s boring and most people will probably stop watching — it still educates the public on the process, what it looks like, how it happens,” McReynolds said. “They can see that their neighbors are in that room you know, and part of the population and part of the public is actually part of this process. It’s not done behind closed doors.”
Its purpose is to show the public exactly what happens when their ballots arrive. And because the coronavirus pandemic is forcing many to vote by mail or at drop boxes, the video stream is one way of increasing trust in the system, said Alton Dillard, spokesperson for the Denver Elections Division.
“Given the pandemic and the limitations on in-person tours of our ballot processing rooms, we wanted to provide some transparency into the process,” Dillard said.
Denver borrowed the idea from the King County Elections division in Seattle, which has done live webcasts of its ballot processing rooms since 2012. Like Colorado, Washington is a mail ballot state. Others taking the video route include Yuma county in Arizona, Los Angeles and San Francisco in California.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed that mail balloting is rife with fraud — and that its expansion in many states this year because of the pandemic presages a fraudulent presidential election. Democrats, including Griswold, insist his repeated claims of lost ballots and other alleged irregularities is misinformation designed to sow enough doubt to enable him to ignore any result that’s not his own re-election.
On Tuesday, Trump tweeted: “Here we go. This will be the most corrupt Election in American History!”
Mail-in voting began in Colorado in 2013. Voters can also drop their ballots at drop boxes or vote in person. This year, Colorado has increased the number of drop boxes and expanded a tracking system in which voters can receive text and email notifications that their ballots have been received and counted.
The video will be available by 10 a.m. on Monday and by visiting Denvervotes.org, clicking on “Voter Information” and then the “Learn More About Mail Ballots” tab.
Nieberg is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.