By Michelle Nauer
Ouray County Clerk and Recorder
Though some parts of the country are new to mail ballots and are using them for the first time due to the pandemic, Colorado has been using mail ballots for more than twenty years. I’ve worked at least 20 elections using mail ballots and I’ve found them to be convenient, secure and effective for our Democratic process.
This week, more than 4,200 ballots are headed to Ouray County electors. The envelopes are printed with the purple message, “official ballot enclosed,” so please don’t mistake it for junk mail and throw it away.
I want Ouray County voters to feel secure in using these ballots and know their votes will be counted, just as they have been in the past. Whether you receive your ballot and decide to mail it back, you use one of the secure drop boxes to return your ballot, or opt to vote in-person, we have very specific protocols and measures in place to assure ballot security.
USING DROP BOXES
Using a secure drop box is convenient and safe, and I recommend returning your ballot this way.
Once your ballot arrives, I suggest casting your vote via drop box as soon as possible. The sooner you vote, the sooner you can correct deficiencies with your ballot, if any arise.
Ouray County now has three, 24-hour ballot drop boxes. One is in front of Ouray City Hall, another is at the fairgrounds in Ridgway, and another has been installed at the welcome sign in Colona.
The secrecy sleeve included with your ballot has the addresses of these boxes. All drop boxes are locked and under constant video surveillance. A bipartisan team of election judges picks up ballots daily and twice on Election Day.
For safety during this pandemic, I strongly recommend casting your ballot by delivering it to one of our secure ballot drop boxes.
Some voters may receive more than one ballot. This will happen if there was an address or name change on your voter registration after the original ballots were prepared by our print vendor. Once a voter makes a change to their registration, that triggers a second ballot to be generated and the first ballot is automatically VOIDED.
In Colorado, our secure, state election database only allows ONE vote per voter to be counted. The first ballot that you return to us is the ONLY vote cast. If you receive multiple ballots due to a change and are confused about which one you should vote, please contact our office at 970-325-4961 for guidance. Please know that receiving two ballots is an anomaly and is not representative of voter fraud.
SIGNING YOUR BALLOT
Be certain to sign the affidavit on your envelope! Unsigned envelopes will be rejected. Election judges are trained to verify signatures by comparing them to previous signatures from each voter.
Each and every ballot envelope signature is compared with the signature captured in your voter record. A bipartisan team of election judges, under video surveillance, will verify your signature.
Judges are trained to examine the slant, spacing and characteristics of your writing. During this process, if a bipartisan team of election judges cannot confirm that the signature on your ballot envelope matches the one on your voter record, a third election judge will be asked to assist.
If your signature still cannot be verified, your ballot will be rejected. If that happens, you will receive a letter asking you to come to our office with valid identification to confirm that YOU are the one who cast your vote. If your signature has changed significantly, to avoid a possible signature rejection, include a copy of your identification inside the envelope with your ballot and clearly mark the outside of your ballot return envelope “ID INCLUDED.” ID’s are not required but it will help you avoid a rejection.
Please make sure that you are signing YOUR ballot envelope and not the envelope of another member of your household!
VOTING IN PERSON
The voting service and polling center at the Ouray County Courthouse opened Oct. 19 for in-person voting.
Please be advised that the polling center is a small space and social distancing will be difficult. Masks are required to vote in-person. The polling center also does not have a machine that tabulates your vote – the device is a touch screen where voters can make their selections and it prints out a ballot identical to the one you received in the mail. The devices are meant to provide accessible voting to people who need accommodations and cannot grip a writing utensil or need the ballot read aloud to them through headphones.
AFTER YOUR BALLOT IS RECEIVED
When they arrive at the elections office, ballot envelopes are immediately scanned into the computer.
All verified and accepted ballots are then opened. Election judges unfold, lay flat and shuffle the ballots to protect voter anonymity. There is nothing on a ballot that can be tied back to a voter or the envelope it came in. For this reason, please do not sign or initial your ballot, make any marks outside the red ovals or write any comments. If you do, that ballot is considered identifiable and no longer confidential.
Ballots that are torn, have stray marks in the scan bar or simply cannot be read by the ballot scanner are duplicated and rescanned. Any duplications are completed under video surveillance by a bi-partisan team of election judges.
All ballots are scanned on our Dominion Voting System equipment which is NOT connected to the internet for security reasons.
Accepted ballots may be scanned prior to Election Day, but are not tallied until after 7 p.m. on Election Night.
ELECTION NIGHT AND AFTERWARD
Preliminary, unofficial results will be posted shortly after the polls close and at the top of each hour thereafter until all accepted ballots are counted. You can see them at www.ouraycountyco.gov. I hope to have an UNOFFICIAL final count before midnight. Please remember to get your election results from a verified source, not from social media.
After Election Day is over, there may still be more ballots to count, including ballots coming from overseas voters, ballots dropped in other county drop boxes across the state and ballots that had rejected signatures. OFFICIAL election results will not be available until every eligible ballot is counted.
Election officials across the country are feeling the pressure during such an important election amidst a pandemic. I am so grateful to be the clerk of a small county where I can be directly involved in all election-related processes. Administering elections is a very exciting process and even with all the work, my staff and I love it!
Don’t wait until the last moment; check your voter registration status at www.govotecolorado.com. Know how you intend to vote. Be smart. Sign your envelope. Make your vote count!