Colorado’s voting process has shifted since the last presidential election, but few residents are aware of what specifically has changed.
In 2013, the Colorado’s Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act of 2013 was passed. It enabled voters in the state of Colorado to vote several weeks before Election Day, provided same-day registration for voters all the way up to election day and also provided multiple locations for voters to drop off their mail-in ballots.
This shift in voting procedure for residents in Boulder County and Colorado is one that most are not aware of, and Communications Specialist Mircalla Wozniak of the Boulder County Clerk and Recorder’s Office elaborated on some of what changed after the implementation of this Act in 2013.
“2012 was a polling location model, and Colorado dramatically changed its voting model in 2013,” Wozniak said. “You can’t really compare results 2012 to 2016, because the whole voting model is different.”
Polling models used to focus on residents voting at a particular polling location close to where they live. Now, voters are automatically mailed their ballots and where they specifically vote is no longer the focus, but voting early and dropping the ballot off somewhere in one’s county is.
Another part of the new processes in place to make voting easier included implementing a cleaner method of handling voter rolls, which indicate if a voter is active or inactive. A voter’s active or inactive status determines if they are mailed a ballot.
“You no longer move voters to being inactive voters for simply not voting,” Wozniak said. “Now the only way that as an active voter you are moved into an inactive category is if we have some returned mail from you that indicated you moved.”
Across the country, results of this year’s general election have also focused on discussing specific demographics such as race and gender, as well as which party voters across the nation selected. However, in Boulder it appears voter turnout was impacted by a demographic changing the voter landscape nationwide.
“I can tell you from raw numbers that there was significant registration growth, but there’s also been a significant influx of residents into Colorado,” Wozniak said. “We expect to have about 193,000 ballots cast, and in 2012 there were only 180,000.”
That influx of people into Boulder County may better explain the preliminary voter turnout results that the Clerk and Recorder’s Office has tallied so far. Below is a visual showing how residents voted in Boulder County in both the 2012 and 2016 U.S. presidential elections:
Residents in Colorado also have shown that they would rather vote via mail-in ballot than go to the polls in person. That trend was evident early in the existence of the new voting model, specifically with results of the 2014 midterm elections.
“In 2014 across the nation voter turnout was down, but in Colorado it was up, and we would like to think it was because of our accessible voting model,” Wozniak said. “the laws had finally caught up with how voters prefer to vote, as 75, 80 percent of voters have requested mail-in ballots.”
One such example of a Colorado voter preferring the mail-in voting option as opposed to voting in person is CU Boulder alum and current Assistant Director at the Cultural Unity and Engage (CUE) Center Victor Hernandez. Hernandez voted via mail-in ballot in both the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections, and he had some concern after voting this year with regards to if his vote was counted.
“I was more worried about my vote being counted, because I didn’t do that in 2012, to check, because I didn’t know that until Teresa (my wife) said ‘Hey, you can check your vote to see if it went in’ and I did,” Hernandez said.
While there was some concern about his vote being counted, this year’s election appeared to Hernandez to be simpler and more accessible for voters when comparing this election to previous ones.
“I’ve seen voter registration throughout the years, and it’s less complicated now than it was in the past, but it’s part of that whole you have to vote, it’s a process. It’s a privilege for sure, but it’s definitely a process,” Hernandez said.
One thing that hasn’t changed in Boulder County is how many early voters showed up, specifically young voters. One group that has put forth all of their efforts to get out the youth vote is New Era Colorado, a non-partisan organization focused on getting young voters registered to vote and getting these voters to the polls when it’s election season.
Organizing Director Molly Fitzpatrick provided insight as to why it is that young voters in Boulder and across the state are so politically engaged.
“We’ve seen that young voters are most excited to participate on the issues that affect them, and that’s something that remains pretty consistent about young people and elections,” Fitzpatrick said. “Because we center around everything around issues and because we’re non-partisan, I think that makes the conversation a lot easier with young voters.”