Cover your bases with your ballot
September 26, 2011
There’s a big flap in Denver and spreading outward about who should automatically receive mail ballots in the upcoming statewide election. The debates, which have now turned to litigation, are full of hyper-partisan hyperbole. But one thing is clear: Whether you are registered, not registered, or an active or inactive voter, your right to vote is completely under your control, and you need only go to http://www.pitkinvotes.org to ensure that you can vote in the Nov. 1 election. No one can “disenfranchise” you if you take two minutes to be certain that your records are active and accurate.
The debate concerns whether live ballots should be mailed to inactive voters who have not requested ballots and have not responded to requests for updated information. Denver is mailing those ballots, although the secretary of state is suing to stop them. Other counties like Pitkin are following the secretary’s orders to mail ballots only to active voters. What difference does that lack of uniformity make? If counties with a broader ballot distribution plan have a resulting higher turnout rate, Pitkin has a relatively smaller voice if Pitkin voters don’t take personal responsibility for casting their ballots.
Why not just mail everyone a ballot? Not only is the cost high when expected turnout is low, but mail ballots are notoriously subject to mischief and election fraud, particularly when mailed to inactive, nonresponsive voters. With the high rate of transient voters and resort workers in Pitkin, mailing unsolicited ballots to those who have not recently voted generates higher risk that live ballots fall into the wrong hands. Pitkin County takes greater measures than most counties to verify mail ballots and signatures, but they cannot catch every trick in the book.
Don’t rely on the courts or past practice to see to it that you get a ballot. Take responsibility for exercising the basic democratic right that defines our country. Check the website or contact the clerk’s office for help (970 429-2713 or firstname.lastname@example.org ) to review your voter registration.
When you receive your ballot in mid-October, consider personally dropping it in the ballot box in the clerk’s office, rather than in the mail. The greater the distance between you and the ballot box-the greater the risk of your ballot failing to be timely received and counted. If you choose not to vote this time, rip the ballot to make it unusable before tossing it in the trash.
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