PUEBLO, Colorado — The ongoing national debate over voting by mail has local county clerks opening their doors to reassure voters about the integrity of our system here in Colorado.
A group of local politicians took a tour Wednesday of the election headquarters in Pueblo to learn about the security and safety measure used to protect the vote here.
State Senator Leroy Garcia, State Rep. Bri Buentello, State Rep. Daneya Esgar, and 10th Judicial District Attorney Jeff Chostner were all part of the tour.
As an all-mail ballot state, every person who registers to vote in Colorado by October 26 will receive a ballot in the mail. Counties will begin mailing the ballots to voters for the upcoming election on October 9.
Voters can turn in their voted ballots by sending them back through the mail, or by dropping them off postage-free at one of the many ballot drop boxes around the county.
Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder Gilbert Ortiz explained the key security feature of Colorado's election system is the signature verification process.
Voters must sign the envelope before returning their ballot either by mail or in the drop boxes. When the ballots arrive at the county election office, machines then scan the envelopes and record an image of the signatures. Those signatures are then compared to a digital image of the voter's signature saved in a state database.
"That's like a fingerprint almost," Ortiz said of the signature verification process. "We're really working hard on that to make sure that the integrity of elections is staying at that top level and looking for even ways to make it better."
Colorado voters also have the option of voting in-person. However, they're encouraged to bring along the ballot that was mailed to them when doing so. Voter Service and Polling Centers will open statewide on October 19, 15 days before Election Day.
Ortiz cautioned that voters may encounter longer wait times at the polling centers this year because of coronavirus restrictions limiting large in-person gatherings.
"People are going to have to be patient because we can only allow so many people in some of these buildings," he said.
The Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder's Office gives multiple tours of their election facilities each year. Ortiz said anyone in the public can request one.