Updated: Got voting questions? We’ve got more answers.

Arapahoe County election ballot drop-off box
Arapahoe County election ballot drop-off box (Photo by Phil Cherner for The Colorado Independent)

This q&a was updated throughout on Oct. 27, 2020

With one week to go until Election Day, you need to drop off your ballot instead of putting it in the mail to make sure it arrives on time.

Ballots need to be returned to a vote center or drop box by 7 p.m. Nov. 3. In Denver, election workers are stationed at drop boxes before 7, and empty the boxes and lock them promptly at 7 p.m. “on the dot,” an elections spokeswoman said.

You may enter your address and find the nearest vote center or drop box. About 75% of Colorado voters return their mail ballots to drop boxes, according to the Secretary of State’s office.

If you aren’t registered and want to vote, there’s still time. Colorado is among 21 states that allow Election Day registration. Just go to the nearest vote center, register and you’ll get to vote. But you need to get it done before 7 p.m. on Election Day.

The Colorado News Collaborative and its members is looking to provide answers to questions from voters and potential voters. We contact the Secretary of State’s Office, county clerks and other resources to respond to our weekly updates

Here are three key things to know:
If you’re wondering whether you are registered to vote, you can check at GoVoteColorado.
If you want to know when your ballot was mailed and when it’s been accepted, sign up for ballot tracking.
County clerks are ready to answer your questions, too. Our list includes websites, phone numbers and emails.

Here’s this week’s question:

I cast my mail ballot, but now I’ve changed my mind on something. Can I get my ballot back and change my vote?

No.

We asked Peg Perl, Arapahoe County’s direct of elections, and here’s what she emailed in response: “This question came up in the Presidential Primary when people cast early ballots for a Democratic candidate and then that candidate dropped out in the last 48 hours before the final election day and voters asked about ‘voting again’ to change their vote to someone still in the race.

“Once someone has voted a mail ballot and it is received by the County Clerk that voter has voted. It is updated in the statewide voter database. You cannot vote again.”

Have a question we haven’t answered yet? Submit it here.

Registration

How do I know if I’m registered to vote?

GoVoteColorado has a range of information on registration, including the ability to register to vote. Go here and enter your name, zip code and date of birth to check your voter registration.

What if I’ve moved?

This link also will allow you to change your address.

What if my name changed?

You’ll need to fill out this form and take it to your county clerk or mail it to the Colorado Secretary of State.

I saw reports about voting cards being mailed to people who aren’t eligible to vote.

A CBS4 story sparked questions about cards mailed by the Secretary of State’s Office to people who aren’t registered to vote. The cards let residents know they can register if they’re citizens, have lived in Colorado for 22 days before Nov. 3 and will be 18 or older on Election Day. But the story, headlined “Colorado Secretary Of State Mails Postcards To Non-Citizens, Dead People Urging Them To Vote,” suggested that the Secretary of State’s office was encouraging people who are ineligible to vote to cast a ballot. It noted that about a dozen of the cards out of 750,000 were mailed to people ineligible to vote.

Conservative media and Twitter accounts quickly seized upon the report and shared it as evidence of potential voter fraud. Voter fraud is, in fact, rare in Colorado and nationally.

The story was eventually removed by CBS4 and replaced by an interview with Secretary of State Jena Griswold.

Ballots

How do I know if my ballot was received?

Voters statewide may sign up to track your ballot online. You’ll get notifications via email, text message or phone (you may choose) when your ballot is mailed and when it has been received and accepted. A dozen Colorado counties were already using ballot tracking, so if you’re already signed up, there’s no need to do it again.

What if I don’t get my ballot?

Check GoVoteColorado to see if your ballot has been mailed. If it has been mailed and you haven’t received it, contact your county clerk’s office and ask.

Why is the envelope for my ballot different than the one my friend received?

Each county decides the design of the ballot envelopes, using different colors on the exterior of the ballot while meeting state requirements for other information. Some counties may even have different designations for certain types of ballots, such as first-time voters who must provide a copy of an ID with their ballot. The envelope colors don’t identify individual voters OR their party affiliation. They don’t have an impact on how or whether your ballot is processed.

How do I return my ballot?

As mentioned above, ballots must arrive at a vote center, drop box or county clerk’s office by 7 p.m. Nov. 3.

Are drop boxes safe from tampering?

Yes, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. They are under 24-hour video surveillance and are emptied every day by a team of bipartisan election judges. The sturdy, metal boxes are bolted to the ground.

What signature is used to validate the one on my returned ballot envelope? My signature has changed over time.

The most recent signature on a state transaction is used as a reference — typically a recent drivers license or more likely the signature on the last ballot you returned, for example, on your primary ballot. All past signatures are available for election judges to review.

If election judges question your signature, you’ll get a notice from your clerk within three days (two if it occurs on Election Day) and you’ll have eight days to verify the signature is yours.

More details on how signatures are verified are available in this detailed guide for election judges.

Can I take a photo of my ballot and post it on social media?

Yes. A 2017 law makes ballot selfies legal in Colorado. According to Colorado Public Radio, it overturned an 1891 law from sharing marked ballots, which was aimed at preventing voter coercion. But you might want to use caution that personal details, including your signature, aren’t revealed when you post.

One of my family members is seriously ill, but insists on casting a ballot. What if they die before Election Day?

If a ballot is cast before Nov. 3 when the person is alive, it will count and is legal.

I’ve already received my ballot at my current address but I will be moving and have an updated address on October 19th. Both addresses are in Denver County. Should I submit the ballot I already received or change my address and request a new ballot be sent?

Here’s what the Denver Elections office says: “A change of address on your voter registration may impact what your ballot looks like on the local level. For this reason, we suggest that voters change their address immediately and wait to vote their new ballot.”

I submitted my ballot but did not remove the stub. Will my vote still be counted?

Yes, it will count. It is easier to process without the stub, but the ballot will still be counted.

I got two ballots in the mail? What’s up with that?

First, look at them carefully. It’s likely they aren’t the same. In some counties, ballots for special election districts go out separately from the general election ballot. And they’re important. The Denver Post pointed late last year out how these districts often have a major impact on property taxes.

But you shouldn’t get two general election ballots. If you do, check to see if the name on the ballots is identical. If it is, contact your county clerk. And consider sharing the issue with Electionland, a partnership between ProPublica and news organizations around the nation.

Where’s the secrecy sleeve in my ballot?

Counties don’t have to include a “secrecy sleeve” to cover up your ballot before putting it in the envelope under a 2018 Colorado law aimed at saving money. In many counties, you may put your ballot inside the instruction pamphlet if you want to cover it up.

I don’t want to vote by mail. I want to vote in person.

Colorado has more than 340 vote centers. You may vote at a center through 7 p.m. Election Day with some limited weekend hours. Find the nearest one by entering your address at the linked site.

What prevents me or anyone from voting twice: in person and by mail?

First, envelopes the ballots are returned in have barcodes unique to the individual. When the envelopes are received by clerks, they are scanned in and poll books are updated to show that the person has voted. So if someone sent in their mail ballot and it was processed, and then showed up to vote at a polling place, the poll worker checking them in would be able to see that they had already voted. Or, if the person votes early at a polling place, then also casts their mail ballot, their mail ballot will not be accepted for counting.

It is illegal to vote more than once. If someone votes in person and by mail, county clerks are required to provide that information to the district attorney or state attorney general for prosecution.

How can I be sure my vote is counted on Election Day?

Sign up to track your ballot. The ballot tracking system will let you know when your ballot is accepted. That means your vote will be counted.

Here’s a tip: The sooner you return your ballot, the sooner the texts, emails and phone calls nagging you to vote will stop. Campaigns and political parties get information daily on who has voted, and they stop contacting those voters.

When do elections officials start counting our ballots?

Elections officials started counting ballots on Oct. 19 — 15 days ahead of the election. The early counting relieves some of the Election Day crush, but no results will be made public until after polls close on Nov. 3. Not even elections officials know the results until then because computer software prevents the count from being revealed until after polls close. Even with the head start in the count, full results in super-close contests still might take a few days.

At the vote center

How do I become a poll watcher, like President Donald Trump suggested? Can I just show up and watch?

You can’t just show up and hang out at vote centers. A poll or election watcher is a formal job that requires appointment by a political party or issue committee, as well as training on what the job entails. This story from the Colorado Sun offers more detail on how to be a poll watcher.

Keep in mind that trying to intimidate voters at polling places is illegal, and Attorney General Phil Weiser told the Denver Post that his office will prosecute those who try to intimidate people at vote centers.

Can I wear my favorite political T-shirt or cap to the polls when I drop off a ballot or vote in person?

No. You can’t promote or oppose a candidate or ballot issue within 100 feet of any building where a polling place is located. This is called electioneering, and includes t-shirts, buttons, hats or other apparel with reference to the election as well as signs. Campaign workers also are prohibited from offering water, food or anything else to people waiting to vote. Soliciting signatures for ballot measures or recall elections is also prohibited.

May I deliver ballots for other people in my family or neighborhood along with mine? Is “ballot harvesting” legal? Should I let someone else turn in my ballot?

An individual may turn in up to 10 ballots from family, friends or neighbors. People working for a political party or other organization also may only turn in 10 ballots, and often may reach out to people with that offer in trying to increase voter turnout. You should make sure you trust the person you allow to return your ballot. Other states have different laws on returning such ballots.

This story is brought to you by COLab, the Colorado News Collaborative, a nonprofit coalition of more than 90 newsrooms across Colorado working together to better serve the public. Learn more at https://colabnews.co

Sandra Fish is a data journalist who’s covered campaign finance in Colorado for 20 years. She also teaches students at University of Colorado Boulder, and has written about politics for national outlets. In 2020 Fish, as she is known, will provide training and technical support for Colorado newsrooms participating in First Draft News’ mis-/dis-information training and campaign finance data analysis and reporting.

35 COMMENTS

  1. I just finished ready an article Posted by the Independent in 2018 that stated that ballots didn’t actually need postage to still arrive. Is this still true for the 2020? I have been unable to find the answer so far for our election in 2020. It might be a good idea to reference and state the same as that previous article if it is still an option.

    • Hi Colby, if you forget to put a stamp on your ballot, it will still get there. But the county will have to pay the postage. If you don’t want to pay for postage, you might just drop your ballot off at a drop box.

  2. Why are the envelopes for the general election ballots different colors this year? It seems they are color coded by party affiliation.

    • I agree, why are envelopes colored different? Party affiliation SHOULD NOT be shown on envelope especially with the mail dumping of ballots lately, Colors can be selected and lost based on affiliation. Why are they different colors? I have read several things and none of them align which tells me it is BS and an identifier of voter preference.

      • Each county decides the design of the ballot envelopes, using different colors on the exterior of the ballot while meeting state requirements for other information. Some counties may even have different designations for certain types of ballots, such as first-time voters who must provide a copy of an ID with their ballot. The envelope colors don’t identify individual voters OR their party affiliation. They don’t have an impact on how or whether your ballot is processed.

    • hi… Counties don’t have to include a “secrecy sleeve” to cover up your ballot before putting it in the envelope under a 2018 under Colorado law aimed at saving money. In many counties, you may put your ballot inside the instruction pamphlet if you want to cover it up.

  3. My ballot was listed as undeliverable by the USPS. What are my next steps to make sure I get my ballot in time to drop it off before election day?

  4. During training for election judges, instructors explained what messages on voters’ attire are prohibited (electioneering). Trainers said MAGA hats and shirts ARE ALLOWED on voters (not workers) at the polls, per the Attorney General’s office. Is this correct?

    • Thanks for the question. No, this is not correct information from trainers. According the Secretary of State: “Voters may NOT advocate for the election or defeat of a candidate or a ballot measure either inside a polling place or within 100 feet of the entrance to a polling place or drop-box. While inside a polling place, voters may NOT wear pins, t-shirts, hats, or other apparel that displays the name or likeness of any candidate who is on the ballot or bearing the number, title, subject or logo of a ballot issue or question that is on the ballot.” Link to this and related info here: https://www.sos.state.co.us/pubs/elections/FAQs/crimesRulesFAQ.html

    • You can. Sooner the better. If you put your ballot in a different county’s dropbox, they’ll return it to the county it belongs in.

    • Good morning. If you lost your envelope, you need to go to the nearest vote center to resolve this. You may enter your address at this link to find the nearest center. https://www.sos.state.co.us/pubs/elections/VIP.html
      They may accept your ballot without the envelope, but it’s more likely they’ll print a new ballot and you may fill it out there…
      The envelope is an essential part of this for ballot tracking, signature verification.

  5. How long does it take for ballotrax to update? I dropped my ballot off at a ballot box yesterday morning and it hasn’t changed from “mailed out”.

  6. Usually when I drop my ballot off I get a trace text that it was accepted the same day. I know this is a huge election and I dropped mine and my husbands off at 12 on yesterday 11/2/2020. I’m sure there’s a delay, However, what’s the approximate turn around for them to be accepted this year?

  7. I voted and dropped my ballot off Saturday at a ballot drop. I just tried tracking it and it’s not received. My boyfriend voted and dropped off Monday and his is showing received. I’m worried my vote isn’t being counted!

  8. Does the outside of the envelope, the envelope that contains my filled in ballot, identify with a number and letters my part affiliation? For example D for Democrat, a R for Republican and an U for unfiliated?

  9. I don’t like the idea of my signature on the outside of the envelope being mailed back. That should go inside the return envelope, in a secrecy sleeve.

  10. BallotTrax does not tell me if my vote was COUNTED, only that it was accepted FOR COUNTING! I want proof my ballot was COUNTED EXACTLY AS I VOTED. How can I get proof my ballot was counted exactly as I voted it?

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.