Colorado county clerks on Monday may begin mailing voters ballots for the June 28 primary election.
This will be the third election cycle in which unaffiliated voters, who make up 45% of the state’s electorate, may cast a ballot in either the Democratic or Republican primaries.
Here’s what you need to know to make your vote count:
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You must be registered to vote by June 20 to receive a ballot in the mail, though if you wait that long you’ll need to return your ballot in person rather than mail it back.
Colorado is a same-day voter registration state, which means you can still register and cast a ballot in person through 7 p.m. on Election Day, June 28.
To register to vote or make changes to your existing registration, go to www.GoVoteColorado.com.
Those registered as a Democrat or Republican or as an unaffiliated voter are eligible to vote in the primary. But Monday is the deadline for Democrats or Republicans to switch their affiliation to unaffiliated or the other party.
Democrats and Republicans will receive only the ballot for their party.
Unaffiliated voters, meanwhile, may designate in advance the party whose primary they prefer to vote in, or simply fill out either the Democratic or Republican primary ballot that is mailed to them.
Note: Unaffiliated voters can only cast a ballot in either the Democratic or Republican primary, not both. If they try to submit both they will be invalidated.
Colorado began all-mail elections in 2013.
County clerks may begin mailing out ballots Monday and they must send them to voters by Friday. It may take a few days for your ballot to reach you.
Because each county administers its own election, ballots and envelopes will look different from county to county. Some counties use special graphics or colors on their envelopes to distinguish them from other counties’ election materials.
Voting your ballot
As we mentioned before, unaffiliated voters may only vote in either the Democratic or Republican primary. Returning both ballots will disqualify both.
Once you’ve filled in your ballot, place it in the return envelope, seal it and sign where designated. Not all counties have “secrecy sleeves,” but you may wrap your ballot in the instructions that accompanied it if you believe it is necessary.
If you mail your ballot back to your county clerk, use a standard (or “forever”) postage stamp. You should mail your ballot back more than seven days before Election Day, or by June 21, to ensure it arrives in time to be counted. Ballots received by a county clerk after 7 p.m. on Election Day aren’t counted. Postmarks don’t count.
You may also deliver your ballot to one of many ballot drop boxes in your county.
Check with your county clerk’s office to find the locations of those boxes, which have round-the-clock video monitoring and are emptied daily. A statewide map of drop boxes is also available at www.GoVoteColorado.com.
People may deliver completed ballots for up to 10 family and friends, but no more than that. Those working for a political party or other organization may also collect and return up to 10 ballots per worker.
“Don’t give your ballot to somebody else unless it’s somebody you know and trust,” said Matt Crane, executive director of Colorado County Clerks Association and the Republican former clerk in Arapahoe County.
Crane also recommends turning your ballot in once you’ve filled it out instead of waiting until the last minute to submit it. That will make the counting process faster.
Voting IRL (in real life)
Voting centers will open for in-person voting by June 20 at the latest, with some counties potentially opening their centers earlier. Every county must offer an in-person voting center.
You may check with your county clerk’s office for a list of voting locations, where you can register to vote and cast your ballot.
If you’ve already submitted a mail ballot, you may not legally vote again in person. If someone votes in person and by mail, county clerks are required to provide that information to a district attorney or the state’s attorney general for prosecution.
What happens after I vote?
Election workers check the signature on your ballot against those on file from driver’s license records and other signatures submitted to state agencies.
You can track your ballot by signing up for BallotTrax at www.GoVoteColorado.com. You’ll get text, phone or email messages when your ballot is received and counted.
If a ballot signature doesn’t match, the voter will be notified by letter and BallotTrax. Voters are given a chance to “cure” their ballot by submitting information via the TXT2Cure texting system.
County clerks may begin processing returned ballots on June 13, though the results won’t be posted until after the 7 p.m. June 28 voting deadline.
Candidates or political parties may appoint election watchers to observe how the election is conducted. In order to view confidential voter information, watchers must complete a video course and familiarize themselves with state election laws. The Secretary of State’s Office has more information and forms to participate.
There’s greater interest than usual so most counties have already filled election judge positions.
“Usually we really have to work hard to get enough Republicans,” said Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert Ortiz, a Democrat who is also president of the Colorado County Clerks Association. “We didn’t have that issue this year.”
Judges are paid a stipend and perform a variety of duties, including welcoming voters at polling centers, collecting ballots from dropboxes and reviewing ballot signatures in bipartisan teams. They are trained for the job by county clerks.
Those interested in serving as election judges in the future should contact their county clerk’s office.
What are county clerks doing?
For the next three weeks, county clerks will work with voters, election judges and the Secretary of State’s Office to collect mail-in ballots, administer in-person voting and count the ballots.
What’s different this year are lingering questions resulting from baseless claims of voting fraud in the 2020 presidential election.
“We’re not doing too much out of the ordinary except trying to fight disinformation the entire time we’re doing it,” Ortiz said.
As is typical with every election, Ortiz and other clerks have been preparing for the primary contest for some time.
“We ordered the paper (to print the ballots) last year because we knew about the trouble with getting it and having it delivered,” he said.
One thing voters shouldn’t expect is immediate results once the polls close, said Crane, the executive director of the clerks association.
“We will not be finished counting ballots on election night,” Crane said, noting that overseas voters’ ballots can arrive eight days after the election and still be counted — the same amount of time voters with potentially rejected ballots have to cure signatures or other discrepancies.
The Sun answers reader questions
Reader: I am registered as an unaffiliated voter. If I use the Republican ballot, is it acceptable to write in a Democratic candidate? For instance, instead of choosing a Republican candidate for U.S. senator, what if I write in U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet’s name on the Republican ballot?
The Colorado Sun: The vote for Bennet won’t count, but the rest of your ballot will, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.
Candidates who want to be write-ins must file documents with state election officials to be eligible. Anyone who hasn’t been certified as a write-in candidate is ineligible and any votes cast for them will be discarded.
Reader: There is a line marked “TODAY’S DATE” on my ballot’s envelope below the voter signature line. It appears to be for a witness if a voter is unable to sign, but I’m not sure. Does the voter need to indicate the date signed?
The Sun: Clerk’s would like you to include the date, but your ballot won’t be disqualified if you don’t include it. If you fail to sign the envelope, however, your county clerk’s office will try to contact you to fix or “cure” the missing signature.
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Who is running?
The Colorado Sun is tracking all of the candidates running in this year’s election.