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Colorado: How to Make Sure Your Vote Counts in the 2020 Election

What you need to know, including key deadlines, how to vote by mail, and more.

How to Vote in Colorado 2020
Illustration by Grace Han

2020 has been a… memorable year. And before it’s over, there’s another historic event coming our way on November 3: Election Day. No matter where you stand on the issues, with passions high and the race for the highest office in the country on the line, casting your vote this year is more important than ever. But like most things in 2020, voting is likely to look a little different in many states. The shift towards mail-in voting means everyone has to be that much more deliberate about making their vote count.

But there’s good news for Coloradans: We’re pros at mail-in ballots. We’ve been doing elections that way since 2013, so we’re primed and prepped for a socially distant Election Day. Every single registered voter will automatically be sent a mail-in ballot -- counties start sending them out on October 6. There are also plenty of online tools in place to help you register to vote, to sure your voter information is accurate, and to track your ballot every step of the way. We’ve broken down all the info on voting in Colorado so you’ll be 100% ready to make sure your voice is heard on Election Day.

What’s the deadline to register to vote in Colorado?

To receive a mail-in ballot for the 2020 General Election, you must register or update your voter information by October 26, 2020. For in-person voting, you can register and vote until 7pm on Election Day, November 3, 2020. 

How to register to vote in Colorado

Online: New voters who have a valid Colorado driver’s license or state-issued ID can register online via the Secretary of State’s website or through vote.org’s voter registration tool. You can also check your current registration status, update your information, and change your party affiliation on the Colorado Secretary of State’s website.

By mail: If you don’t have a state-issued license or ID, or if you prefer to register by mail, fill out this form and send it to the Colorado Department of State Elections Division. If you need to pick up a form, you can get one at your county clerk and recorder's office and most federal post office locations. You can also submit the form in person or via email to your county clerk and recorder. The list with contact information for clerk and recorder offices can be found at govotecolorado.gov.
 
In person: There are several physical offices where you can register to vote in person. You can register at a Colorado Department of Motor Vehicle office when you apply for a driver's license, or when updating your driver's license information. Offices that provide public assistance can also help you fill out your form if you need assistance. You can also register at any voter service and polling center or through voter registration drives. 

Can I vote early? When does early voting start in Colorado?

Yes! Colorado has been mailing ballots to all registered voters since 2013, so early voting is a norm here. The early voting period runs from Monday, October 19, 2020 through Monday, November 2, 2020. 

Can I vote by mail?

For sure. Voting by mail has been the standard in Colorado for seven years. There’s no need to request an absentee ballot. Every single registered voter is sent a ballot automatically. 

How do I vote by mail?

Fill out your ballot with a blue or black pen, place it in the provided envelope, and be sure to sign the envelope before casting your vote. You can return your ballot via USPS in the envelope provided or drop it off in person at a secure voting dropbox by 7pm on Election Day. Dropbox location dates and hours can be found via your county clerk and recorder’s office. If you don’t receive your ballot or it’s lost or damaged, you can request a new one from your county clerk or opt to vote in person on Election Day. 

Is there a way to track my mail-in ballot? How can I make sure it’s counted?

Each ballot that is mailed to a registered voter in Colorado can be tracked every step of the way via a unique intelligent mail barcode. You can track your ballot through BallotTRACE. Most counties also offer the option to get ballot updates via text or email. Check with your local county clerk for more information on how to sign up in your county. 

How can I stay safe while voting in person?

Your best bet for keeping yourself and others healthy and safe while voting is to take advantage of Colorado’s mail-in ballot program. According to the Secretary of State’s office, 97% or more voters in Colorado typically vote by mail or via secure drop off locations. We have one of the most streamlined, efficient, and proven mail-in ballot processes in the country.

If you do decide to vote in person on Election Day, be sure to follow any current public health orders including mask requirements and practicing social distancing at polling locations. Along with the required approved form of ID, consider bringing along your own pen (blue or black ink only) and hand sanitizer for extra precaution. 

Here's what the CDC recommends voters do to keep themselves and others safe at polling locations:

  • Wear a mask. 
  • Keep a distance of at least six feet from others at all times.
  • Wash your hands both before and after leaving your polling location.
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol frequently throughout your time inside the polling place, especially after you touch things like door hands, voting machines, and other surfaces that lots of other people touch.
  • If you cough or sneeze, cover them with a tissue or the inside of your elbow. Dispose of the tissues in a lined garbage can, then use that 60% alcohol hand sanitizer again. 
  • Don't try to disinfect the voting machine or equipment yourself because you may end up damaging them with cleaners and disinfectant products. This is where hand sanitizer comes in again. Use it right after you touch the voting equipment, and if you use it before you touch the equipment, make sure your hands have dried first. 
  • Try to vote when your polling place isn't as busy. This might involve driving by and checking to see how long the line is.
  • Verify that you're registered to vote before you leave home and make sure you bring any documents you'll need to avoid spending more time inside the polling place.
  • If possible, fill out a sample ballot at home that you can use to speed up casting your ballot at the polling location. 

Additional Colorado Voting Resources

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Molly Martin is a Denver-based freelance writer. Follow her @mollydbu on Instagram and Twitter for more updates on food, fun, and life in the Mile High.