Voting In A Pandemic? Even More Coloradans Appear To Rely On Mail And Drop-Off Ballots

Primary Day Voting Ballot Drop Off Denver GRISWOLD
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold at the Denver Elections Division’s drive through ballot-drop-off station at Swansea Recreation Center on Primary Election Day June 30, 2020. In remarks, she praised the city’s mobile voting facility there.

The Colorado Secretary of State’s Office says it’s seeing an even larger percentage of people using mail-in ballots in the state's primary election than in the presidential primary. 

About 1.3 million people have cast a ballot in the state’s primary as of Tuesday afternoon, and Secretary of State Jena Griswold said 99.8 percent of those votes were cast by mail ballots, either returned by mail or drop boxes. Ninety-seven-point-five percent of Coloradans voted by mail in the presidential primary in March, just before positive cases of COVID-19 arrived in Colorado.

“It sounds like just a percent or two, but that translates into thousands of people,” Griswold said. “That's thousands of people not interacting in person at polling centers, which means that in-person voting is even more spaced out and that Coloradans are taking the notion of voting very seriously and social distancing while voting very seriously.”

Her office may see an uptick of in-person voting by the end of the day Tuesday, she said.

“We want to encourage folks to be able to exercise their right to vote,” said Denver Clerk Paul Lopez. “It is safe. It is secure, and it's something that we are protecting.”

With the pandemic forcing changes to daily life, voting by mail has suddenly become controversial with some Republicans and President Donald Trump claiming concerns over election fraud. But voting by mail is not new in Colorado. The state moved to all-mail ballots in 2013.

Griswold said Colorado leads the nation in cybersecurity and people should be confident in the state's election results. Colorado's National Guard monitors election results for suspicious activity.

"Just to make it really clear, you can't hack the actual election results," Griswold said on Tuesday afternoon.

"We have a voter-verified paper ballot. None of our in-person voting equipment is connected to the internet," Griswold said. "What we are protecting are support systems -- online voter registration, the statewide poll book. So far, so good."

People can still vote in person at polling places, where election judges and clerks are following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health guidelines. Staff is using personal protective equipment like masks and sanitizer.

Griswold said her office has seen a 35-percent increase in voter turnout so far compared to this time in 2018. The statewide primary is closely resembling a presidential primary and is only about 10,000 votes behind.

“Our vote-by-mail system really sets the national standard and has been a favorite of Colorado voters for years,” Griswold said. “At no time in our state's history has voter access been more important than right now. The pandemic and protest of police brutality of Black Americans that we have seen reinforces how vital voting is to our society.”