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Colorado's Mail-In Voting System in National Spotlight

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A recent survey found that 79% of Democratic voters and 65% of Republicans want the option of voting remotely during the COVID-19 health emergency. (Paul Sableman Flickr)
A recent survey found that 79% of Democratic voters and 65% of Republicans want the option of voting remotely during the COVID-19 health emergency. (Paul Sableman Flickr)
June 1, 2020

DENVER -- A majority of voters across party lines say they want the option to mail in their ballots during the pandemic, according to a recent Reuters/Ipsos polL, and many states are giving Colorado's all-mail ballot voting model a harder look.

Since 2014, all registered voters in Colorado have received ballots by mail.

Amanda Gonzalez, executive director of Colorado Common Cause, says the state's system shows that when voters can mail in ballots, cast ballots at any center in their county and drop ballots off before or after work, people want to vote.

"When they have several weeks of early voting available, it's not just one day," she points out. "They participate in our system. And when they turn in their ballots, we get better policies, we get more accountable politicians, and that's good for all of us."

Last week President Donald Trump received a fact-check notice for a tweet he sent out warning of widespread fraud if states roll out vote-by-mail options before the November election. Others have called for witnesses and notaries for mail-in ballots.

According to a Denver Post report, a tiny fraction of 1% of all votes cast in 2018 in Colorado were flagged by election officials to be investigated for fraud.

Gonzalez says voter participation increased by almost 10% after the state switched to an all-mail system, while other states saw declines. She notes increased voter turnout has not favored one political party over another.

But Gonzalez agrees that it's important to have security features in place, such as matching signatures on ballots with handwriting samples.

"But a signature verification and an attestation does really well in Colorado," she notes. "I think that when you talk about needing a notary or a witness, you're creating barriers to voting that really disenfranchise whole communities."

After the Wisconsin Supreme Court blocked an effort to enable remote voting in the state's April primary, it's estimated that 67 voters and workers were infected by COVID-19.

While delivery options and restrictions vary, voters in all 50 states currently have the right to request a ballot by mail.

Support for this reporting was provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO