GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Voters will see a few changes during this fall’s election aimed at eliminating confusion and making it easier for people to register to vote if they’ve recently moved to or within Colorado.
In addition to allowing people to register to vote right up through Election Day, new legislation contained in HB 13-1303, approved by the state Legislature earlier this year, included several other provisions that will take effect with the Nov. 5 coordinated election.
The new Colorado Voter Access & Modernized Elections Act expands the number of places where people can vote in elections that are conducted primarily by mail ballot.
It also connects polling places electronically and ensures that registered voters who may have skipped up to three general elections still receive a mail ballot, as long as they haven’t moved, by eliminating the “inactive voter” status.
Other than that, not a lot will be different in Garfield County compared with recent elections, said Garfield County Clerk and Recorder Jean Alberico.
“It isn’t hugely different from what we’ve done in the past,” she said of the county’s efforts to increase the use of mail ballots, both for general elections in even-numbered years and off-year “coordinated” elections, such as this year’s election.
“We have done both coordinated and general elections by mail for some time, and even though everybody is mailed a ballot there are still options for in-person voting prior to or on Election Day,” Alberico said.
The Nov. 5 ballot includes two statewide tax questions, one seeking an income tax increase for K-12 education and the other seeking the establishment of excise and sales taxes for retail marijuana to pay for the regulation of recreational marijuana, as allowed under the 2012 Amendment 64.
Also to be decided by local voters in Garfield County will be several municipal and fire district tax questions, as well as contested races for the Garfield District Re-2 school board and the Colorado Mountain College board of trustees.
Under the state’s new voting law, the voter registration deadline shifts from 29 days before the election previously to 22 days. After that time, voters can still register online using the Colorado Secretary of State’s website until eight days before the election.
Even then, voters can register in person at their local county clerk’s office or any designated “Voter Service Polling Center” through Election Day, as long as they sign an affidavit, under penalty of perjury, stating that they lived in Colorado at least 22 days prior to Election Day.
Critics of the bill said the tighter registration timeline and same-day registration provision could lead to voter fraud.
The authors of the bill sought to preserve election integrity through the creation of a “live” polling system that links polling centers around the state electronically and tracks voting in real time.
“For the first time, every polling place will be able to track each voter,” Alberico said in a recent presentation to the county commissioners explaining the voting procedure changes.
In the long run, the new system also improves the county clerks’ ability to update voter records through the use of a national change-of-address database, which will interface with several state records databases, she said.
Elimination of the “inactive failed to vote status” for voters who skipped an election will increase the number of ballots sent out in Garfield County on Oct. 15 by about 4,000.
Alberico said she is preparing to mail out more than 30,000 ballots this election, including some voters who will receive two ballots if they live in one part of the county but own property in another part of the county where there’s a local fire district or other special district tax question on the ballot.
Three area fire districts, Carbondale, Glenwood Springs and Gypsum (part of which extends into Garfield County) have tax questions on the Nov. 5 ballot, while the Silt Water Conservancy District is seeking to “de-Bruce,” or retain revenues above state TABOR limits.
In addition to the Garfield County Clerk’s offices in Glenwood Springs and Rifle, an additional pre-election early voting polling center will be established at the Garfield County Department of Human Services Building in Rifle on Oct. 28. Mail ballots may be dropped off at those locations prior to the election, in addition to being returned by mail.
Election Day polling centers will be set up at Carbondale Town Hall, the Glenwood Springs Community Center, and at Garfield County Library locations in New Castle, Silt and Parachute.
“We don’t anticipate a lot of people coming to the polling centers on election day, because it will be a mail ballot election,” Alberico said. “We still felt it was really important to have an option in each of the towns.”
Any registered voter who did not receive a mail ballot for whatever reason, or whose ballot was ruined and needs to be re-issued, can go to one of the polling centers to have a new ballot issued prior to the election or on Election Day, she said.
With the new electronic link, voters can also go to any polling center in the county to vote on Election Day, even if it’s outside their precinct area, she said.