What happens after your ballot gets returned

Posted at 9:19 AM, Oct 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-21 11:19:57-04

COLORADO — Hundreds of thousands of Coloradans have already cast their ballots in this election. Even as concerns over mail-in voting have circulated throughout the nation. The early returns in the state are record-breaking.

After your ballot makes into the dropbox or is mailed back to the Clerk's office, it goes through a lengthy process to make sure your vote is counted and accurately.

For the dropboxes, it begins with a bipartisan team of election judges retrieving ballots and placing them in a container to return to the processing center. The process is documented and the container is sealed with a serial number.

"So that way when that box comes back to us we can verify that the contents of that box wasn't altered in any way," El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Chuck Broerman said.

A bipartisan team also checks the serial number of each box as it gets returned to the processing center. Ballots are then placed in a machine known as an Agilis. The machine checks signatures based on the inventory of signatures on file.

"That machine takes the first look at your signature to verify that if it is you, truly, who has voted that ballot," Broerman said.

If the signature matches, it makes its way to get opened and sent to the tabulation process. However, if there's a discrepancy- there's an entire process that begins to cure the voter's ballot.

Election judges begin a three-step process. First one judge looks it over and if there are still discrepancies, it goes to a bipartisan team of election judges. Both judges must agree there's a discrepancy in order for the ballot to get rejected.

A notification either by text (new for Colorado in 2020), letter, or email is then sent to the voter to give them an opportunity to cure the ballot. The notification must be sent within three days of discovering a discrepant signature. Voters then have eight days after the election to cure their ballots. This year, Veteran's Day falls within the eight-day window which gives voters a ninth day to cure it.

About one percent of ballots are rejected in Colorado each election because of signature discrepancies. Broerman says part of the reason is some voters forget to sign it until they prepare to drop it off, use the steering wheel as a surface to sign and it comes out looking different.

Then begins the tabulation process. Which includes teams of people in a secure area. In Colorado, tabulation can begin 15 days before election day.

"The access to that room is controlled, the network and the computer and the scanners tabulating- they're not networked to anything in the outside world," Broerman said.

Results then go into a double-encrypted system. Results are then published online as polls close on Election Day.