Election Day is Tuesday. Here’s what you need to know
FRISCO — Election Day is nearing, and it’s time for voters around the county to make sure they’re prepared.
Some already have mailed in their ballots or dropped them off at one of the county’s 24-hour drop boxes. More are still flipping through their blue books and mulling over important ballot decisions on whether to vote for an increase in nicotine taxes or who is the best fit for the Summit School District Board of Education.
For others who haven’t plunged into election season quite yet, there’s still plenty of time to register to vote and to learn about the issues and candidates. And whether you’re an everyday resident, an inmate at the jail or a homeless person living in the area, county officials are urging everyone to vote.
“The fundamental idea here is that we want people to vote, and Colorado’s laws are extremely permissive and inclusive about who can vote,” Fifth Judicial District Attorney Bruce Brown said. “We want people to take an active roll in public life, characterized by participation in these discussions of new laws and officials that will represent all of us. The more people that take part in that, the better government we’ll have.”
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Who can vote in Colorado?
There’s no need to worry for individuals who feel a little behind in the process. In Colorado, eligible voters are able to register through Election Day either in person at a voter service or polling center or online at govotecolorado.com. In order to register, individuals must be a U.S. citizen, be a Colorado resident at least 22 days before the election, be at least 18 years old and have an acceptable form of identification (including a Colorado driver’s license, U.S. passport, military identification card or many more).
People who are 17 but will turn 18 on or before Tuesday can register to vote before their birthdays.
Many individuals are eligible to vote who might not know their rights, including homeless people in the county. According to Brown, homeless individuals can register and fill out a ballot even without a permanent residence. Homeless voters can register using any address within a specific county that they regularly return to and intend to remain. These locations can include a homeless shelter, a park, campground, vacant lot, business address and more.
“The only type of conviction that would cause you to lose your right to vote is a felony conviction, though a vast majority of offenses are either misdemeanors or traffic offenses,” Brown said. “If you are convicted of either a state or federal felony and are still in prison, you cannot vote. But as long as you don’t have a conviction and are not currently in prison you will be able to vote.”
That means that even individuals with a prior felony conviction can vote if they’re no longer incarcerated. Thanks to a new bill signed into law in May this year, individuals on parole also will be able to vote for the first time this year, Brown said.
Inmates in custody at the Summit County Jail also are largely eligible to vote.
“It’s important because these inmates have constitutional rights, and one of those is the right to vote,” said Summit County Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons, whose office works in partnership with the Summit County Clerk and Recorder’s Office to facilitate inmate voting. “We firmly believe inmates should have the right to vote regardless of their incarcerated status. So we’ll make it as seamless as possible for them to do it.”
Jail staff will help inmates to determine whether they’re eligible. Inmates will be given registration forms and ballot information booklets prior to Election Day. On Nov. 5, a bipartisan team from the clerk and recorder’s office will drop off and pick up the ballots for tabulation at the courthouse.
Avoiding voting pitfalls
While registering and voting is relatively simple, there are a couple common mistakes that can get voters into trouble.
“There’s two common issues we face in Summit County, because we have a fairly transient community in terms of people who move into or out of the county and because of second-home owners,” Brown said. “The first is determining where you can vote as a resident. The second is people who vote twice, and sometimes that’s a product of confusion because everybody gets a mail-in ballot in addition to going to the voting center.”
Voters should register under their primary residence though, as Brown notes, that isn’t always an obvious choice for second-home owners. There isn’t any magic deciding factor for determining a primary residence, especially for individuals who split their time evenly between two locations.
But there are some helpful tests in determining where you should be registered to vote. Brown said voters should look at a number of factors to determine where to register, including where you work, which address you use to file your state taxes, which address your vehicle is registered under and the address on your driver’s license.
Some individuals also make the mistake of filling out two ballots, sometimes because they’re filling out a ballot for someone else or because they fear their mail-in ballot didn’t make it to the clerk’s office for some reason. Under no circumstances is an individual allowed to fill out and hand in more than one ballot.
People who fear their mail-in ballot won’t be counted should contact the clerk and recorder’s office to see if it’s arrived, Brown said. If it hasn’t, or is still in transit, voters can fill out a provisional ballot that would be counted if the original doesn’t arrive.
If there are any irregularities with ballots cast, the clerk and recorder’s office will hand the questionable ballots over to the district attorney’s office and the Colorado Secretary of State’s office for investigation.
Brown noted that in Summit County, incidents of ballots being cast illegally are very rare, but he said it does happen on occasion. In those cases, the DA’s office does have the authority to prosecute violators, though Brown said he prefers to handle minor cases less punitively. In cases where a simple mistake was made, the DA’s office will simply ask the offending party to sign a document acknowledging the mistake and pledging to inform the office of any future changes to their residency for voting purposes.
“As long as people make mistakes that are technical violations of law, but not intentionally committing voter fraud, we’re going to take a less formal route,” Brown said.
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 5, and Summit County voters who haven’t already mailed in or dropped off their ballots have plenty of options for where to vote.
Twenty-four hour ballot drop boxes already are open at the Summit County North Branch Library in Silverthorne, the Summit County Historic Courthouse in Breckenridge, Dillon Town Hall, Frisco Town Hall and the Summit County Commons in Frisco.
People can vote at one of three voter service polling centers from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Election Day at the Summit County Courthouse in Breckenridge, the Community and Senior Center in Frisco and the Silverthorne Pavilion in Silverthorne. Summit County Clerk and Recorder Kathleen Neel also is hoping to remind voters to be sure to sign their ballot envelopes before handing them in.
Neel said that about 3,000 mail-in ballots already have been returned, though the office isn’t expecting a huge voter turnout this year. Neal said that last year almost 15,000 total votes were tallied in the county. Though odd years tend to shrink the turnout considerably, with only about 6,000 county voters during the 2017 election.
For more information, call the clerk and recorder’s office at 970-453-3470.
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