Election ballots showed up in La Plata County mailboxes this week, and registered Democrats took an early lead in returning them to designated drop-off locations.
As of Thursday night, about 1,400 registered Democrats had returned ballots, compared with about 400 Republicans and 800 unaffiliated voters in La Plata County, according to the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office. Those numbers will change quickly – the La Plata County Clerk and Recorder’s Office had received more than 4,700 ballots as of Friday.
Early turnout so far has been in line with past presidential elections, but the ballot boxes are humming, said Tiffany Parker, La Plata County clerk and recorder.
“It’s exciting,” Parker said. “You can see at my office, it’s just car after car after car. It’s really cool to watch it.”
In total, there are about 40,700 active voters in La Plata County, and Parker expects to see record-breaking turnout this year because of the contentious race between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.
Votes were rolling in quickly Friday: About 15 people dropped off ballots within 30 minutes at the county Administration Building, 1101 East Second Ave., in Durango.
Five of six people interviewed for this story said they were dropping off ballots in support of Democratic candidates. One woman, who identified herself as a Republican, declined to give an interview.
Jacob Richmond, 25, said registered Democrats might be quicker to return ballots this year because they are motivated by the presidential race. Lourdes Carrasco, 73, a “diehard” Democrat from Durango, shared in that sentiment.
“I’ve been waiting for this event for four miserable years,” she said.
Several voters said they always voted early, but this year, they wanted to make sure they could resolve any issues with their ballot.
“I want to make sure (Trump) doesn’t have an excuse to question the validity of the election,” Carrasco said.
“I always vote early. I don’t want to leave it to the last minute,” said Cindi Trautmann, 57, of Durango. “I want to avoid any issues at the poll that so many people are thinking might happen.”
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, some communities are having to rethink how they do elections in order to limit possible spread of the virus. The issue has raised concerns that votes won’t be counted as states try to upgrade their mail-in voting systems.
Parker, however, is not concerned. Colorado’s first mail-in ballot election was in 1993 and statewide voting by mail began in 2013. Historically, 98% of La Plata County voters vote by mail, Parker said.
“We are absolutely prepared. This is what we do,” Parker said.
One reason a ballot could be rejected is if a voter’s signature does not match records. In La Plata County, election judges from both political parties compare signatures against images of past signatures on ballots, driver’s license registrations and other documents.
If there is an issue, Colorado clerks are required to notify voters within three days of their voting date. Voters have eight days after the election to correct any errors, Parker said.
People can also enroll in the state’s automatic ballot tracking system at colorado.ballottrax.net to see their ballot’s progress. If they add their email or phone number to their voter registration, the county clerk’s office will have more ways to notify voters of possible issues with their ballot.
Parker expects an eventual lull in early voting that will then pick up again closer to Nov. 3. Danielle Beamer, 34, of Durango said she wanted to drop off her ballot early because she was excited to vote.
“The way we vote this year says a lot about who we are as a country,” she said. “I hope people do vote this year and feel safe voting.”
Ballots were mailed to voters Oct. 9 in La Plata County, and voters should go to the Clerk and Recorder’s Office to get a replacement ballot if they did not receive their mail-in ballot by Oct. 16.
La Plata County Clerk and Recorder Tiffany Parker said voters who return their ballots by mail should mail them before Oct. 26 to ensure the U.S. Postal Service delivers them to her office by 7 p.m. Nov. 3, the deadline for receipt of ballots.
After Oct. 26, voters should drop off ballots at one of five drop-off boxes across the county:
Clerk and Recorder’s Office, 679 Turner Drive, Durango.
Bayfield Town Hall, 1199 Bayfield Parkway, Bayfield.
La Plata County Administration Building, 1101 East Second Ave., Durango.
Fort Lewis College Community Concert Hall, 1000 Rim Drive, Durango.
Farmers Fresh Market, 535 Goddard Ave., Ignacio.
For those who prefer to cast their ballots in person, Voter Service Polling Centers will be set up beginning Oct. 19 in the clerk’s office, and beginning Oct. 26 in Bayfield Town Hall.
Also, three Voter Service Polling Centers will open Nov. 2 and on Election Day, Nov. 3, at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College; the Southern Ute Cultural Center and Museum, 503 Ouray Drive in Ignacio; and La Plata County Fairgrounds, 2500 Main Ave. in Durango.