With 18 initiatives on the ballot for the Nov. 4 general election, I recommend applying for a mail-in ballot. This is the second-highest number of questions ever in a Colorado election. Please keep in mind the length and complexity of this year's ballot when considering your options (early voting, voting by mail or at the polling locations on Election Day).
Applying for and using a mail-in ballot " formerly called absentee ballot " allows voters to research and make decisions at home instead of in the polling booth.
Besides reducing lines at polling places, mail-in ballots may be counted in the days leading up to Election Day, which helps speed up the election results.
Currently, we have received more than 2,200 applications for mail-in ballots for the general election, and we hope this number increases. Another plus for mail-in ballots is that your assigned polling location might not be the most convenient. In a large but sparsely populated county, it's often difficult finding polling places that meet federal requirements for handicap accessibility and reasonable parking.
Please know that we are doing everything possible to staff and organize our polling locations to make sure wait times are minimized.
Last year, mail ballots were automatically mailed to all registered voters because the county was conducting a mail ballot election. This year an application is required.
You can print an application from the county Web site, www.co.grand.co.us, or pick one up at the County Courthouse. This is the first year for permanent mail-in ballots. As long as voters stay active in the election process, ballots will be mailed to that voter.
Also new this year, a statewide voter registration database connecting Colorado's 64 counties made its debut during the primary election in August. The database, called SCORE II, allows election clerks to check a voter's registration status. The statewide database is a big improvement. If you register in Grand County you are automatically canceled in your previous Colorado county.
I would like to stress the importance we place on conducting secure elections. We want everyone to understand that this is a secure process. For all hand-delivered ballots, the clerk's office logs the name of the person dropping off each ballot. Once all hand-delivered and mail-in ballots are logged, the bar codes on the ballot envelopes are scanned to mark the ballot as received. This information goes to the voter look-up on the Web page. The ballots are then locked up for the mail-in ballot judges to review.
The voter's signature on the ballot envelope is covered by the flap after the voter has sealed the envelope. The clerk's office removes the flap to assure that the envelope was signed. We don't open the envelope in order to see the signature. If an envelope is not signed, the voter is immediately sent a letter asking him or her to come in and sign the envelope before Nov. 12. That means we could have uncounted ballots waiting for signatures until that day.
Mail-in ballot judges, usually two Democrats and two Republicans, compare ballot envelope signatures to voters' signatures on file. Judges can go back three generations of signatures to verify the voter. If the judges believe a signature does not match, the voter is sent a letter stating they have until Nov. 12 to sign an affidavit.
After verifying the signatures, judges open the envelopes and remove the voted ballot, which remains folded inside the secrecy sleeve. Putting the envelopes aside, judges remove the folded ballot from the secrecy sleeve. Next, the judges unfold the ballots and remove the ballot stubs. Those ballots are locked in a ballot box with tamper-evident numbered seals and locked in a vault waiting for the counting judges.
When it comes time to count the paper ballots, the judges visually inspect the ballots for stray marks, write-in votes, over-votes (voting for more than one in a race that says vote for one, or if a voter votes both yes and no on a question), or blank ballots. If ballots need to be remade due to tears, stains, marked in pencil, etc., the judges remake the ballot with all four judges assuring the ballot is marked correctly. Finally, ballots are sent to counting where they are scanned by a ballot scanner.
Reconciliation judges reconcile any ballots that are blank or over-voted, if they have not already been remade.
Mail-in and early voter ballots can be counted beginning 10 days before the election. Grand County will start counting those ballots on Saturday, Nov. 1. Those ballots will not be tallied until 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov.4, and the results will be made available as soon after 7 p.m. as possible.
Sample ballots will be available on the Web site at www.co.grand.co.us after Sept. 15. In October, we will publish the official ballot content along with the polling locations, information on voting options, and deadlines in the Grand County newspaper in the legal notices section. This information also will be available on the county Web site as soon as the final ballot is complete.
For more information about voting in Grand County, call the Elections department at 970-725-3347, or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.