Colorado Now Offers Automatic Ballot Tracking For Every Voter

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Samantha Rhodes completes her civic duty for the November, 2020 election outside of the Carla Madison Rec Center on Colfax Avenue. Oct. 16, 2020.

Editor's Note: This story was originally published Sept. 14, 2020. Some details have been updated since then.

A statewide system setup in 2020 will send text messages and emails to keep Colorado voters updated on the status of their mailed ballots in the upcoming election.

People can ensure they’re enrolled at — or they can opt out.

Previously, only about a quarter of the state’s counties offered automatic ballot tracking. Instead, voters in most counties had to log onto a state website to check on their ballot.

The expansion of the BallotTrax system makes Colorado one of five states with a statewide notification program, according to the National Vote At Home Institute. Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold announced the new statewide program on Monday.

“Being able to track our ballot is something that’s really important for voters, to give them confidence and security,” said Pam Anderson, executive director of the Colorado County Clerks Association. “I think it gives voters a great deal of control and information about the process.”

The state planned to send texts and emails on Monday to people who have been automatically added to the system. Voters can ensure they’re enrolled at — or they can opt out.

The system will notify people when their ballot has been mailed, when it arrives at the county clerk’s office and when it has been processed. Some counties will offer additional information through Intelligent Mail Barcodes, which allows them to track ballots within the U.S. Postal Service system.

Denver launched the state’s first ballot notification system in 2009. Since then, twelve other counties have adopted similar systems. Those twelve counties are already using the software that will now be expanded statewide, while Denver is staying on its own Ballot Trace system.

Real-time ballot tracking could boost people’s confidence in mail ballots while they're under scrutiny. President Donald Trump has attacked mail ballots as insecure, though elections experts say that hasn’t been true in mail-voting states like Colorado, while Democrats have said that mail slowdowns could affect ballot delivery.

In Denver, the ballot tracking system may even have boosted voter turnout, according to Amber McReynolds, the county’s former elections director and current CEO of the National Vote At Home Institute.

People who used ballot tracking tended to vote at slightly higher rates, she said. That may be because Denver used its system to send out reminders to voters who hadn’t yet turned in a ballot.

“It becomes this whole communication engine that is really good for voters,” McReynolds said.

The state government paid $70,000 of federal grant money to cover the cost of the expansion. The state will cover the cost of the program going forward too, according to Griswold’s office. BallotTrax is operated by the Denver-based tech company i3Logix.