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98% of La Plata County voters cast ballots by mail

Clerk and recorder says mail-in voting is more secure than polling places
Ann Marie Beresford drops off her Colorado primary election ballot in June 2020 at the La Plata County Clerk and Recorder’s Office. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Colorado has implemented mail-in voting for all its voters since 1992.

In 2008, Colorado advanced mail-in services further by making the mail-in option permanent: Once people sign up for mail-in voting, they will always have that option for each relevant election, said La Plata County Clerk and Recorder Tiffany Lee at an Eggs & Issues meeting hosted Tuesday by the Durango Chamber of Commerce.

Despite skepticism about the accuracy and safety of mail-in ballots held by some, 98% of La Plata County voters use mail-in voting to cast their ballots. Only 2% of county voters go to a voting services and polling center to cast their vote, Lee said. Statewide, just 5% of voters choose to vote in-person, she said.

The county clerk anticipates the number of in-person voters will rise this November as a result of some people becoming more wary of mail-in ballots.

“That’s unfortunate because there’s actually more security in mail ballots as opposed to polling places,” Lee said. “With a mail ballot, No. 1, they are not forwarded. So if you are a college student and you’re not here anymore, it’s going to come back to me so I can start that process of removing you from the rolls. Also, we do signature verifications, so we look at every single signature. People say nope, there’s no way – yes we do.”

An automated piece of equipment captures the ballot signatures and election judges physically examine those signatures and compare them with previous signatures they have on record for the person who submitted that ballot. If there is a discrepancy, the clerk’s office will notify the ballot caster through a process known as ballot curing.

The cure process lasts for eight days after an election, during which time someone notified by the clerk of a signature discrepancy can provide a form of ID and a signed affidavit to the clerk stating he or she is indeed the one who cast the ballot.

“Your ballot is never opened until we can ensure that you are the one that cast it,” Lee said. “Then we go onto mail ballot teams that actually open it, keeping the secrecy of your vote. Meaning, in the Constitution of the United States you are entitled to a secret ballot, and I am adamant about that, that none of us know how you cast your ballot. We know that you voted, but we don’t know how you voted.”

Lee emphasized that the ballot counting process is handled by bipartisan teams just like the other election processes, and it allows voters to have their ballots counted the way they intended to vote without violating their privacy.

cburney@durangoherald.com

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