For weeks, the President has been ‘painting devils on the wall’ about the unreliable nature of vote-by-mail, a system Colorado and a number of other states have used successfully for years. But an underlying irony in his almost daily warnings is the fact that---are you ready? ---President Trump votes by mail. He casts a Florida ballot.
Trump, still struggling in his recovery from coronavirus, might be mortified to learn that Denver voters will soon be receiving their ballots in the mail. He also might be struck by the confidence Denver Clerk and Recorder, Paul Lopez, has in mail-in ballots which began landing in mailboxes over the last weekend. “There is no evidence that this (voter fraud) is going on. It is very, very rare,” he said. “Statistically, it’s almost never.”
Colorado has been a leader in vote-by-mail since adopting the system in 2013. It has also led in the efficiency and standard of excellence in the system. “Colorado’s election model is the nation’s gold standard,” said Colorado Secretary of State, Jena Griswold. “The President is wrong on vote by mail,” she added. It is both safe and secure and “a model for election security and access.” The state, she said, regularly “leads the nation in voter turnout,” with all voters using the system.
While preparation for the November vote is moving along at its prescribed pace, this year’s election includes a variable no one could have predicted; a pandemic. It took a bit of extra work, but Lopez said Denver is ensuring workers are being kept as safe as possible. “We’re observing health guidelines,” he said. “We have masks and we’re offering masks” to those who request them. To skirt this factor, he recommends simply filling out your ballot and dropping it the mail or a near-by drop box.
There are 38 drop-boxes located across the city, he said. “They’re secured and monitored 24-7. But if folks think they want to come in person, we have 36 vote centers” with poll workers ready to lend a hand.
As a candidate---he served three terms on Denver City Council---and now City Clerk and Recorder, Lopez has been through enough election nights to answer just about any questions voters might have. And election nights inspire tons of questions along with a nearly equal amount of anxiety, most especially from people asking for results. “We’ll start posting results at seven o’clock and updating every 90 minutes,” he said. But early results are only preliminary. “Those results are unofficial until we certify the election two weeks later.” Lopez knows the anxiety of voting night. “I want to encourage folks to be patient with us.”
Despite the President’s effort to plant doubt among voters that the election, primarily his, will be rigged, former Denver Clerk and Recorder, Rosemary Rodriguez, is confident this election will be as clean and thorough as humanly possible. “I think people trust the process.”
The process city and state election officials have for making certain bad things don’t happen begins long before ballots are even printed. Election commissions meet to go over any problems that might arise and public meetings are held to allay any concerns voters might have or to simply to provide answers on basic voting questions, said Rodriguez. “It’s through those meetings that people would testify or vent or give compliments” about the process she said.
With only weeks left before election day, Lopez is confident that all the boxes have been checked to ensure a smooth election. His biggest concern is with the sowing of misinformation which he lamented “is coming from the highest office in the land.” But the city’s record, along with the state’s, are evidence that any problems, any issues with the vote are the creation of President Trump. There is a record to prove it.
Denver and Colorado have escaped the problems that other states have recently experienced with mail-in ballots, including two well publicized incidents on the east coast. In one instance, there was the inadvertent tossing away of a handful of ballots in Pennsylvania. The other matter involved a New Jersey postal worker discarding more than 2,000 pieces of mail that included a number of mail-in ballots.
In the Pennsylvania case, an election worker explained the ballots that were found in the trash were mistakenly tossed there. “There was no intentional fraud,” the official explained. But the President seized on the incident and used it in his recent debate with Democratic Presidential candidate, Joe Biden, to further plant seeds of doubt on the veracity of the process.
But the process, say both Lopez and Rodriguez, is as good as it can be. There might be an unexpected snag but that is all it will be, both unexpected and nothing that rises above a snag. Voters, they say, can have the same degree of confidence with their ballot as officials have in overseeing them. “Absolutely,” said Rodriguez. “It was (a privilege) being entrusted with facilitating democracy.”
With nearly two decades of involvement in the process, as a candidate, elected official and, now, as the person in charge of Denver’s vote count, Lopez said his belief in the efficiency and the sanctity of the system are more ingrained in his beliefs than ever. “The job is not just a responsibility,” he said. “It’s a privilege.”