EL PASO COUNTY — President Donald Trump said on Thursday he does not support additional funding for the United States Postal Service if it would be used to process more mail-in ballots, asserting they are connected to voter fraud. Critics call the Postal Service a lifeline for democracy, as the country prepares for a presidential election during a pandemic.
Secretary of State Jena Griswold said the president's opposition to funding expanded mail-in voting amounts to voter suppression.
Here in Colorado, mail-in ballots are nothing new, with the state considered a national model for how the system can work safely. The El Paso County Clerk and Recorder, Chuck Broerman, said the state has done 12 elections with our hybrid mail ballot voting system. Plus, he said Colorado is primarily a mail ballot state, with 95-98% of all voters using the ballot they receive in the mail. "Colorado has been moving toward where we're at for many many years... We have a very robust system. We're recognized in the nation as the gold standard when it comes to mail voting," said Broerman.
Broerman said there are dozens of special steps taken by his office to prevent fraud. He gave a handful of examples, which include a voter database that is updated regularly, a machine that verifies the signature on the back of the ballot, and a bi-partisan team of people who count the ballots under video surveillance. "We have layers upon layers of safety and security... We just conducted a primary with record number of turnout in the middle of a pandemic, and we kept everyone safe in doing so," said Broerman.
Plus, Broerman said they can track the ballot from the moment it is mailed out, and now voters can too. "We are instituting a new system this year called Ballot Track that will allow our voters to see where their mail ballot is, where it is in going out to them and then where it is in the process coming back to us. So, that's another way voters can have assurance that their vote they dropped in our mail ballot box got to us and that we counted it," said Broerman.
Now a Colorado Springs City Councilman, Wayne Williams also served as the Secretary of State from 2015-2019. He said there have been instances where people were prosecuted for turning in another person's ballot, or attempting to vote multiple times. "There's always been controversy about voting processes, and it goes back for decades... Mail ballots like Colorado does are very safe and very secure, but if you implement it without the protections that Colorado does, it's not secure and it's not safe," said Williams.
Williams pointed out another step our state has to ensure safety when it comes to mail-in ballots. "We then have the nation's first risk limiting audit, where we actually make sure the machines counted those ballots properly," said Williams.
However, Williams did express concern over the HEROES Act, which was passed by the House of Representatives in May. It has not passed the Senate. "There's some dangerous legislation that's been passed by the House that strips Colorado of some of it's protections. For example, checking signatures to make sure the individual actually is the person who turned in the ballot," said Williams.
Meanwhile, the President of the Colorado State American Postal Workers Union, Robert Helmig, said they started experiencing delays regarding delivering mail when the new postmaster general took office. "Once that mail starts delaying, and it's already happening, it's only going to get worse. That's why we encourage our family and friends and customers to get involved, because it's actually going to take everybody in the United States to get involved to save their Postal Service... I don't understand how such a favorable government entity can be caught up in such a nasty political game," said Helmig.
Helmig said he believes ballots in Colorado will be mailed out according to schedule. "Our system is set up that when there's political mail, it kind of goes to the front of the line, so I don't see that being delayed... I have full faith that my fellow postal workers will get the job done," said Helmig.
Helmig also had a message for the White House. "Mr. President, please stop playing political games. Trust the men and women, the veterans, the moms, the dads, the brothers, the sisters that work in the Postal Service, and trust that they do a good job. Quit making this a political issue. Let's do vote by mail, it's safe, Colorado's proven that it's effective and that it works... The Postal Service will always be here for the American people," said Helmig.
Ballots should be mailed out on October 9. There are 70 different locations voters can use throughout El Paso County to drop off their ballots. If a person is planning on sending their ballot back in the mail, make sure to do so at least 10 days before November 3.