Between COVID-19 safety concerns, worries over potentially long wait times, and smears against the integrity of mail-in ballots, there’s a lot weighing on voters this coming general election.
In a news release last Friday, Colorado Secretary of State (SOS) Jena Griswold announced updated election guidelines for November’s election, focused on maintaining a high standard of public health while continuing to provide access to the polls for everyone.
Colorado voters have already witnessed firsthand many of the COVID- related changes occurring at the state level during the state primary in June.
Despite COVID restrictions, such as physical distancing and longer ballot processing times due to fewer poll workers, this past primary broke records with nearly 1.6 million votes cast due to a highly charged election year, a new reform allowing unaffiliated voters to vote in the primary, and a well-practiced mail-in ballot system: over 99 percent of voters mailed in or dropped off ballots, CPR reported.
Griswold seems optimistic about the process of voting this November due to the success seen in June.
“Colorado’s elections are the country’s gold standard, and the current health crisis does not change that,” said Griswold in the news release. “Based on the success of the June 30 State Primary, I’m happy to again announce rules and guidelines for conducting the General Election that are designed to make voting as safe as possible. No Coloradan should have to choose between their health and casting a ballot and these rules and guidelines help ensure that’s the case.”
The news release strongly suggests Coloradans vote via mail-in ballots. Ballot drop boxes and vote-by-mail not only minimize in-person contact, but also increase efficiency while maintaining the integrity of the vote, according to Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder George Stern, who wrote an op-ed on the topic for CNN.
Since all ballots do need to be turned in by 7 p.m. on Election Day, Griswold told 9News that it’s a good idea to mail in ballots at least eight days before Election Day to ensure it’s received in time. And with some USPS delays still occurring, avoiding procrastination is probably a good idea.
According to the Washington Examiner, Colorado will add 368 ballot drop boxes statewide, making voting more accessible.
If this general election is anything like the primary, poll voters can expect “minimal wait times,” the news release notes.
However, there may be more activity at polling centers than during the primary, which could potentially lead to longer wait times, the Colorado Secretary of State’s office told the Colorado Times Recorder.
“Presidential elections have more first-time voters and day-of registrations, so we do tend to see more activity at [voter service and polling centers] than we do at other elections,” said the SOS office.
In order to reduce wait times, polling centers have also been advised to organize foot traffic, place signage to guide voters through the room, and even utilize outdoor and/or drive-through voting options if possible.
Voters who decide to exercise their right to vote in person will see some changes to the normal voting landscape from previous years. Griswold, however, asserts that thorough precautions are being taken to protect individuals from potential coronavirus outbreaks.
For one, all poll workers will wear personal protective equipment at all times, and will physically distance from others. Voters are encouraged to don masks and physically distance themselves as well. Noncompliance doesn’t mean individuals won’t get a chance to vote–but it does mean they may be asked to stand apart from others, or even be handed a mail-in ballot to then drop in a drop box.
Poll workers, however, are allowed to ask security to escort you from the polling premises if an individual escalates a situation. So whether you decide to wear a mask or not, you should be prepared to comply with those working at polling locations.
In addition to PPE, poll workers will frequently clean all touch surfaces in the polling station.
“We encourage counties to use their best efforts to wipe down as frequently as possible, ideally after every use if feasible,” the Secretary of State’s office told the Colorado Times Recorder.
Despite the thorough plan in place for this year’s election, Colorado is still apparently short of one necessity: election judges. According to the SOS website, some election judges cannot work this election due to the pandemic. As a result, “many counties need more judges.”
Both Griswold and Colorado First Gentleman Marlon Reis, husband of Gov. Jared Polis, have called for more people to apply for a temporary paid election judge position for October and November.
Interested in becoming an election judge? Apply on the Colorado SOS website.
Check your voter registration here.
Need to request a mail-in or absentee ballot? You can do that through the U.S. Vote Foundation.