Colorado election officials defend 'gold standard' system against attacks

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Colorado is regularly recognized for having some of the most inclusive voting policies in the country, from universal mail-in ballots to allowing felons to vote the day they step out of prison. And expanding election security and accessibility has been a focus for nearly a decade.

So in the face of a county clerk's continued attacks on the legitimacy of the state's elections ahead of Nov. 8, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold and her Republican predecessor Wayne Williams, recently teamed up for a television and digital media campaign to combat what they called ongoing election misinformation.

The effort was largely prompted by the actions of embattled Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters, a Republican who has repeatedly challenged the results of her June primary election loss and supported former President Donald Trump's unfounded challenge to the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election.

Peters, who in March was indicted on charges of tampering with election equipment and official misconduct, lost a three-way race to retain her post to GOP nominee Pam Anderson. Results of a recount, which Peters continues to dispute, showed Anderson receiving 43% of the vote to the 28% received by both Peters and candidate Mike O'Donnell.

"The recounts are complete and confirm once again that Colorado elections are safe and secure," said Griswold, who calls the state's election security and accessibility reforms the "gold standard" in the nation. "Accepting the outcome of free and fair elections is a cornerstone of American democracy. Disinformation and frivolous lawsuits do not change the fact that there are winners and losers in an election."

Colorado mail-in voting popular even before all-mail voting implemented

Since all-mail voting was implemented in 2013, every registered voter has received a ballot to the mailing address provided on their voter registration. But even before it became the state policy, mail-in voting was popular. In 2020, the Larimer County clerk told the Fort Collins Coloradoan that about 70% of state voters had already opted to be placed on a “permanent mail ballot” before it was the official method.

By the 2020 election, more than 93% of Colorado's registered voters returned their ballots by mail.

All Colorado voters are sent their ballots no sooner than 22 days before the election, or the previous business day if the 22nd day before the election is on a state or federal holiday, and mail-in ballots can be returned via mail or can be dropped off at a polling station until 7 p.m. on an election day.

Absentee voting in Colorado is used for state voters living outside of the country and all active military personnel from Colorado. These people can register to vote under UOCAVA — the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act — which also covers spouses, civil union partners and voting dependents.

Counties mail ballots to these voters 45 days before the election so they’re received within two weeks, allowing additional time for return to the county.

Coloradans can still vote in person on election day, but early voting in Colorado looks a bit different than in other states. Polling stations are open 15 days prior to the election, but only for voters to drop off mail-in ballots. Counties establish voter service centers to address voter needs and registration up through the close of polls.

If you vote at a poll — or the first time you vote by mail — in Colorado, you must provide identification.

But, it is possible to vote without an ID.

Someone without an acceptable ID — like a passport, driver’s license, Medicare card or various other forms of identification — can cast a provisional ballot. Following the election, an election official evaluates provisional ballots to determine the voter's eligibility and whether it should be counted.

Group records 15 voter fraud cases in Colorado since 2005

In addition to its inclusive voting practices, Colorado is often recognized for its secure voting procedures that result in little voter fraud.

Voter fraud in Colorado is tracked at the county level and is not compiled at the state level, so the Secretary of State’s office was unable to provide the total number of voter fraud cases associated with the 2020 election.

However, The Heritage Fund, a conservative research and education institution, tracks voter fraud cases nationwide and has documented just 15 cases in the state dating back to 2005.

“Repeating a lie over and over does not make it true," Griswold said in pointed remarks to Peters' challenges. "Colorado’s elections are secure, and voters can be confident in them.”

A voter drops ballots into the ballot box outside the Larimer County Courthouse in Fort Collins, Colo. on Monday, Oct. 26, 2020.
A voter drops ballots into the ballot box outside the Larimer County Courthouse in Fort Collins, Colo. on Monday, Oct. 26, 2020.

Inmates are able to vote the day they're released

Colorado is one of at least 21 states that restore voting rights the second an inmate is released from incarceration.

While serving a sentence for a felony conviction, it is illegal to register to vote or vote in Colorado. But, voting rights are restored for felons the day they are released from detention or incarceration. Released felons are not required to finish paying restitution or any other fines they may have accumulated before casting their vote.

Additionally, people in jail, out on bond, awaiting sentencing or on parole are also eligible to vote in Colorado. In 2020, two Denver jails even had in-person voting centers pop up so eligible inmates could vote in person.

Parolees were the most recent group to be given back their right to vote. During the 2020 legislative session, it was determined that people sentenced to parole had completed their "full term of imprisonment," which would then allow them to vote according to the state constitution.

How to register

Colorado allows people to register to vote up to and on the day of an election.

If you are already a registered voter, you can verify your registration at, where you can also update your address and party affiliation.

If you have a valid Social Security number, Colorado driver’s license or Colorado ID card, you can register online at

If you don’t have one of those forms of ID, you can submit a paper version of an online application or register in person.

This article originally appeared on Fort Collins Coloradoan: Colorado election officials defend 'gold standard' system against attacks