In a critical election year, the Colorado Secretary of State (SOS) is ensuring as many ballots as possible get counted–including minimizing signature discrepancies that can disqualify ballots if not corrected.

Last week, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold announced a new program called TXT2Cure. The program allows voters to more easily fix signature discrepancies that may arise on some voters’ ballots.

The program is intended to minimize the number of ballots rejected in elections, by making it easier for people to fix a signature discrepancy.

According to a press release from the SOS office, the process is simple. Any voter who is notified of the discrepancy via U.S. Mail has until November 12 to simply text “Colorado” to 2VOTE (28638) and go to the link sent to them. From there, voters will be asked to enter the voter ID number on their rejection notice, digitally sign an affidavit, and attach a photo of their identification.

In the state of Colorado, mail-in ballot integrity is maintained by checking the signature on the ballot with the signature attached to the voter’s records–usually that on a driver’s license or other form of identification.

What is a signature discrepancy on a ballot?

If the signature on the ballot envelope does not match that on the voter’s records, then a bipartisan team of election judges check the signature. If they agree it does not match, the voter will be sent a rejection letter. The ballot is not opened, nor counted, until the issue is “cured.”

It’s no surprise that this system can lead to legitimate ballots being rejected, due simply to the natural evolution of a person’s signature over time.

Young voters, especially, may have changed their autograph from when they got their ID and when they vote in November. They also typically have fewer signatures on file.

According to the press release, about a half of a percent of all ballots were rejected in the 2018 general election due to mismatched signatures, but that ratio reached almost two percent for voters between 18 and 19 years of age.

Nicole Hensel, Executive Director of New Era Colorado–a nonprofit that aims to increase political and voter engagement in young voters–commented on how significant this program is for young people,

“Young people are some of the most likely voters to need signature verification or ballot curing because they often don’t have many signatures on file,” said Hensel in the press release.  “The Secretary’s new TXT2Cure system will make signature verification and ballot curing options more accessible to young people, who often do not have the printers, scanners, and mailing supplies to cure their ballots in the traditional way and are voting for the first time. During a pandemic, this system will allow us to support more young people in making sure their voices are heard through their vote.”

Before now, voters could cure their ballots by either physically going to the elections office, or by filling out a form attached to their rejection letter and including a copy of their identification.

TXT2Cure has been tested prior to this election–three counties used it in past elections, and 16 others used the technology in this year’s primary.

In addition to TXT2Cure, there are a number of other ways that Colorado and local counties ensure the integrity of mail-in and drop-off ballots–these include BallotTrax (Colorado’s official mail ballot tracking system) and barcodes.

If you would rather vote in person in Colorado, polls will look a little different than they have in the past, thanks to the pandemic. They’ll still be extremely efficient, however, and the Colorado Secretary of State has also allowed counties to open some polls the Sunday before Election Day if they so choose, to maximize voter turnout.

The good news is that the average rate of signature discrepancies in Colorado, already the lowest of any mail-in ballot state, decreases every election.

Regardless, if you’re worried about the status of your mail-in ballot, you can check if your ballot has been accepted or rejected by using BallotTrax.