Behind-the-scenes look at the election process in Routt County
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — As voting ramps up with Election Day just weeks away, Routt County volunteers and staff from the Clerk and Recorder’s Office are counting more early ballots “than I can remember since I’ve been here,” said Jenny Thomas, chief deputy county clerk and recorder.
As of Friday, Thomas said, the county has received 5,000 completed ballots, which they did not receive until the week before the election in 2016.
Thomas attributes that number to both the “hotly-contested” election and the higher number of people participating in early voting due to COVID-19 and not wanting to wait in long lines on Election Day.
“The amount of ballots we’re getting back is a lot more than we’ve seen before at this point in the election,” Thomas said.
In addition to staff from the Clerk and Recorder’s Office, the county also enlists volunteers to serve as election judges.
Judges are selected from all political parties and are sworn to bipartisanship. They meet each day, beginning weeks before and leading up to the election.
After ballots are collected from each drop box, judges are tasked with verifying signatures collected on the outside envelope of each ballot. Using a person’s previous ballots, voter registration, driver’s license and other governmental signatures, judges check to make sure the signature on the ballot envelope matches a person’s previous signatures. If the two do not match, the person is contacted and given the chance to correct the signature.
“What we tell everyone is, it doesn’t need to be clean, it just needs to be consistent,” Thomas said. “Just sign your ballot like you’d sign anything else.”
After signature verification, the privacy sleeve and ballot are separated to ensure the voter’s confidentiality is protected. The next person then scrambles the ballots into piles for another set of judges to scan them into the system. The ballots are then mailed to the Secretary of State’s office.
To provide election security and ensure accuracy and integrity, judges work in groups of three, and checking signatures, removing the privacy sleeve and scrambling the ballots into piles are done by separate people each time, while scanning ballots is completed by an entirely different team.
“It’s a huge process on the back end, and it takes a lot of people to do it,” Thomas said. “We’ve been very lucky this year and had a lot of volunteers.”
The county will have about 50 volunteers and staff members working on Election Day, Thomas added.
Shauna Lamanasky of Steamboat Springs has been a volunteer in the Routt County election processes for 27 years.
“It’s really important for me to be a part of the process,” she said. “I like serving the community and helping people know that their voting system is safe and secure.”
Lamanasky said she has enjoyed seeing the evolution of Colorado voting laws in her 27 years, particularly when Colorado began practicing mail-in voting in 2013.
“I really like helping the community learn how the process works,” she said.
Routt County residents can submit ballots and register to vote up until Nov. 3, but the last day to request a mailed ballot for new voters is Oct. 26.
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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