Ballots were mailed this week to registered voters in La Plata County. Ballots can be returned by mail or dropped off at official locations, including in Bayfield and Ignacio.
There are no traditional precinct polling sites on election day, Nov. 8.
"This is the first presidential election that everything is by mail with service centers," County Clerk Tiffany Parker said. Anyone who doesn't receive their mail ballot by Oct. 26 should call the clerk's office at 382-6296.
At service centers during business hours, people can register to vote, update their address, request an absentee ballot, get a replacement ballot, turn in their marked paper ballot, or vote on an ADA compliant touch screen computer. Service centers are in the main clerk's office south of the Centennial Shopping Center in Durango or the clerk's annex in Bayfield Town Hall, and starting on Nov. 4, at the fairgrounds in Durango.
The clerk's main office and Bayfield office will be open from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays, Oct. 29 and Nov. 5 as well. The fairgrounds vote center will be open from 8 a.m. to noon on Nov. 5
Starting on Oct. 18 until 7 p.m. on election day, outside ballot drop boxes can be used 24 hours a day at the clerk's main office, Bayfield Town Hall, Farmers Fresh in Ignacio, and the county administration building, 1101 E. 2nd Ave. in Durango. On Nov. 4 and 7 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and election day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., ballots can be dropped off at the Fort Lewis College Student Union Building.
Ballots to around 300 military or overseas voters were mailed on Sept. 23, according to Parker. Absentee ballots can be mailed until Oct. 31. It's recommended that after that date, voters should return ballots to a drop site, not mail them.
Mail ballots can't be forwarded if your current address doesn't match what's on your voter registration, Parker advised. Ballots must be returned in the same envelope they came with, not switched with another voting envelope in the household; and only the one ballot per return envelope. The signature on the return envelope will be matched with the signature on your voter registration.
In person voters will have to show an ID that includes a Colorado address. Mail ballots are validated by the signature match, Parker said.
Except for the military and overseas ballots, all ballots must be received at a service center or outside drop box by 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 8, to be counted. Postmarks don't count. The military and overseas ballots must be postmarked or transmitted electronically by election night and received by Nov. 16.
Parker has been giving community presentations about voting options and the state and local questions that will be on the ballots along with political candidates.
"We can begin counting (ballots) 15 days in advance," she said. "The election judges can begin to open and actually tabulate ballots. Results are sealed on a memory card until election night," she said.
Paper ballots are fed into the counters at the clerk's office. The paper ballots are their own record in case results are questioned.
Computer voting also has a paper trail in Colorado, Parker said. In some states, concerns have been raised about possible manipulation of computer voting where there is no paper trail.
And this year there have been concerns about reported efforts to hack voter registration systems in some states.
Parker said, "The equipment is secured and sealed until 7 p.m. on election day. Our server is completely separate. In Colorado, we've had copies (the paper ballots) or paper trail of all votes. We do a logic and accuracy test with a representative of each party to make sure it's operating correctly."
That was done on Oct. 7. Each party representative got 25 ballots to take home and vote, and do their own manual tally.
"Then they come in (to the clerk's office) and randomly select the machine to use (to verify accuracy). They verify the audio ballot on the touch screen" and sign off on the accuracy of their tests.
In addition, Parker said, "(Elections assistant) Erin (Hutchins) and I are doing 900 (equipment checks) to make sure it's accurate. But nothing is connected to the Internet."
The equipment checks are on every piece of equipment, and it takes about three days, Parker said.
"Colorado doesn't allow tabulation equipment wired in (to the Internet)" so there's no access for hacking, she said. "We put results on a flash drive on election night and put that on Erin's computer to upload to the state. We verify (results) before we push that out."
Aside from voting any time between now and election day, Parker said voters can go online to www.govotecolorado.com to check the status of their ballot, that it was received by the clerk's Office, and that the required signature on the outside of the return envelope is valid.