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Opinion Columns

Jena Griswold: Colorado’s election model proves ballot access and security are compatible

Practically as soon as polls closed on Nov. 3, malicious actors began setting the stage to roll back Americans’ right to vote under the auspices of “election security.”

A student casts her ballot in 2020 presidential primary at a drop box near the University Memorial Center at the University of Colorado in Boulder. (Dana Coffield, The Colorado Sun)

As Colorado’s chief election official, I follow election issues closely, and what I have observed lately is of grave concern. Reports from many states show a clear pattern: Voting rights are under attack.

Republican-led state legislatures, stung by the election loss of President Donald Trump, are seeking to tighten restrictions on voting. In Arizona, legislators have introduced a bill to require notarization of mail ballots, a new proposal to kick voters off the rolls, and even a measure that would give the state legislature the power to overturn election results anytime before inauguration day. 

Georgia lawmakers are proposing bills to ban automatic voter registration and drop boxes, and are introducing measures to remove access to no-excuse absentee ballots

Jena Griswold, Colorado secretary of state

And even in Colorado, a national leader in mail ballot procedures, a measure was proposed to eliminate automatic mail ballot access for all voters.

The 2020 general election may be over, but this is no time to let down our guard. Practically as soon as polls closed on Nov. 3, malicious actors began setting the stage to roll back Americans’ right to vote under the auspices of “election security.” 

But let me be clear: secure elections and voter access go hand in hand. Colorado’s elections stand as proof.

Let’s start with the key data points: In the 2020 election, Coloradans returned over 3.2 million ballots, with a turnout rate of 86.5% of active voters. Nearly 94% of ballots were returned either by mail or via one of the state’s more than 390 drop boxes. 

On top of this, voters who did vote in-person were able to do so as safely as possible during the pandemic, and our office was able to provide the necessary personal protective equipment to election officials across the state.

And the best news? With the highest percentage of eligible people registered in the nation and with the nation’s most accessible voting system, Colorado is also considered the securest state in which to cast a ballot, as noted by the Washington Post and former U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, among others. 

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

Colorado’s election model works. Eligible voters can participate easily in our democracy and our elections can be secure from intrusion.

The work to support free and fair elections doesn’t begin and end during election season. In fact, running our elections is a year-round job that requires the focus and expertise of the entire agency alongside county clerks and U.S. Postal Service employees across the state. 

Since I took office in 2019, my team has been working tirelessly to prepare for elections. We meticulously maintain our voter rolls, which increases the security of elections. In fact, my office updates voter records each night with information from the Department of Motor Vehicles and updates the rolls monthly with data from various sources including the USPS and the Department of Public Health, among others. This series of checks ensures that we have the most up-to-date information on eligible voters in the state. 

We’ve enabled 24-hour video surveillance at our drop boxes and use voter-verified paper ballots that can’t be hacked. We work closely with county clerks to assemble bipartisan teams of election judges and train them to verify voter signatures.

These preparations secure our elections, but they don’t come at the cost of reducing voter access. In Colorado, we have both.

We give voters ample time and options to participate in our elections. County clerks send ballots out more than three weeks ahead of Election Day.  Drop boxes and voter service centers open around the state soon thereafter. These various options give voters ample time to send their ballot back in the mail, drop it into a drop-box, or vote in-person.

If a signature on a ballot can’t be confirmed, a voter has eight days after Election Day to correct, or cure, the ballot. And our office has worked to make tracking and fixing your ballot more secure and easier than ever. Programs like Txt2Cure and BallotTrax enable voters to track their ballot’s progress and cure any problems with it, all from their own home.

Unfortunately, not every American has access to Colorado’s election model, and instead of learning from our success, some other states seem intent on rolling back voting access. 

TODAY’S UNDERWRITER

Attempts to disenfranchise voters under the banner of “election security” are simply misleading, wrong, and antidemocratic. Our democracy is only as strong as our willingness to defend it. 

Join me in resisting efforts to restrict voting rights so that all American voters can make their voices heard.


Jena Griswold is Colorado secretary of state. She is the youngest person to hold her position in the nation.


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