A new election system using all mail-in ballots faces an immediate test in Colorado, with tight Senate, House and gubernatorial races that are being closely watched nationally. Hoping to boost turnout, the Democrat-led legislature here passed a law a year ago requiring Colorado to use mail-in ballots in virtually all elections. Some Republicans, including the secretary of state, have voiced concern about mandating the system statewide, saying that relying so heavily on the postal service could cause problems, especially for rural voters. Democrats have said that the two other states with all-mail elections, Washington and Oregon, have experienced few problems. Colorado voters can still drop off ballots at designated voting centers. They can also fill out a ballot at the centers and even register there on Election Day. But the idea is for most ballots to be mailed in. County clerks have to receive a ballot by 7 p.m. on Tuesday for it to count. A ballot postmarked but not received by that time isn’t valid. “The reason we did this was just to modernize our system and make it easier for people to vote and stay in the process,” said the state House majority leader, Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, a Democrat from Boulder. “You have a lot of people who have a very difficult time just showing up on Election Day and casting their ballot.”
Many Colorado counties had already been holding mail-ballot elections in some cases. But the new law stipulates that previously inactive voters are now required to receive ballots, as long as they maintain a Colorado address. Secretary of State Scott Gessler said that created an opportunity for fraud. “We’re sending hundreds of thousands of pieces of mail to people who don’t vote and are very likely not residents of Colorado anymore,” Mr. Gessler said.
Republicans have an early lead in mail voting, prompting Democrats to urge party members to drop off ballots, because by Monday, it was too late to mail them in. Figures released Monday by the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office showed some 558,966 Republicans had cast mail ballots, compared with 446,448 Democrats and 359,496 unaffiliated voters.
Officials in Washington and Oregon said mail ballots have proved popular with voters and said there have been few problems. “Where vote by mail really makes a difference is where people aren’t interested enough to go to the polls,” said Tony Green, a spokesman for the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office.
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