Election Security in Colorado

Written by Chris Lowell, Colorado Common Cause Intern on November 7, 2016

Voting Booth

Coloradans are fortunate for a variety of reasons—not least of which is the states’ voter-friendly elections system. Since the passage of COVAME, a law that dramatically expanded voter access to the ballot, the integrity of elections in Colorado has never been higher.

Amidst a national conversation on the topic of election fraud, an examination of the electoral process in Colorado proves that our system balances security concerns with voter accessibility.

Staving off voter fraud is imperative, as no amount of it is acceptable under any circumstance. Colorado employs common sense methods to prevent any type of voter fraud while still promoting the unimpeded right to vote.

Voting fraud is the intentional corruption of the electoral process by the voter. Out of millions of votes cast in the past decade in Colorado, only a handful were found to be fraudulent. The most notable came this year when it was discovered a few deceased individuals voted in elections over the past decade. However, it should be noted that the ballot verification process (explained in-depth below) have dramatically improved over this time. 

The voting processes that form the backbone of election integrity in Colorado are continually evolving, and when a pitfall is exposed, actions are swiftly taken to remedy the situation.

“We are working to improve our processes and prosecute those who break the law,” said Wayne Williams, Colorado Secretary of State.

The nearly impossible feat of swaying the outcome of Colorado’s election would involve widespread, systemic fraud aimed at fixing dozens of smaller elections across the state. This would require the cooperation of hundreds of bi-partisan election judges, officials, observers, and volunteers—all of whom are trained and determined to thwart such activities.

Colorado has several stringent, bi-partisan and transparent processes in place for catching those attempting to commit voter fraud.

Before any election, a bi-partisan team of judges in every county tests election equipment during a transparent public seminar. Colorado voting machines are at no point connected to the Internet, which makes the machines impervious to hacking.

When a citizen registers to vote in Colorado, the Secretary of State collects a version of that individual’s signature. Using the same software banks rely on to detect credit card fraud, these signatures are used to electronically verify the signatures on each mail-in ballot envelope.

In smaller counties without electronic equipment, a bi-partisan team of election judges will check citizens’ signatures.

After a ballot is accepted, a machine or bi-partisan team of judges will remove the ballot from the envelope that personally identifies the voter. Voters place their ballot in a secrecy sleeve, which conceals their ballot choices even after it is removed from the envelope personally identifying them. A bi-partisan team of election judges will flatten the ballots before inserting them into a machine where the votes are captured and stored for tabulation on Election Day.

Cameras, secure, transparent accountability systems, and bipartisan elections officials appointed by local parties monitor every step of this process.

After votes are counted, the only people with access to tabulations are bi-partisan elections officials and judges who have passed a Colorado Bureau of Investigations background check. Furthermore, the computers track who has access to the tabulations and when, as well as every keystroke preformed during this time.

Election results are never uploaded to the Internet until they are all complied by the Secretary of State for final reporting on election night.

With the tabulations done electronically—and the loose ends tied up by bipartisan teams working in transparent conditions—the entire voting process is completed through a straightforward, non-biased procedure.

Not only are the electoral processes already thorough, but Colorado strives to continually improve their integrity.

Placing unfounded doubt on our system of traditionally free and fair elections inevitably harms the democratic foundations that allow us to vote in the first place. Colorado Common Cause has worked diligently to guarantee a fair, transparent and secure election process, and we will continue to champion these ideals into the future. 

Office: Colorado Common Cause

Issues: Voting and Elections

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