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Thousands of Colorado ballots are rejected every year. Here’s what happens.

Teams of Pueblo County election workers, each made up of one Democrat and one Republican, prepare some of the remaining 5,000 mail-in ballots to be counted the afternoon of Nov. 10, 2022. The ballots will be crucial in determining whether incumbent U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert returns to Washington to represent the 3rd Congressional District or her Democratic challenger, Adam Frisch, takes the seat. (Mike Sweeney/Special to The Colorado Sun)
A process known as ballot curing allows local officials to alert voters that there’s an issue with the signature on their ballot, and provides a chance to fix it in time for it to count

Tens of thousands of ballots can be rejected in a given election year in Colorado because of signature discrepancies.

Colorado is one of 24 states that has a process, known as ballot curing, that requires local election officials to notify a voter if there is a missing signature or a signature discrepancy on their ballot and gives voters an opportunity to fix it.

Under state election laws, if both members of a bipartisan team of election judges agree that a signature on a ballot does not match the signature in the voter’s file, they can stop it from being counted.

The ballot envelope is not opened until the discrepancy is resolved, according to the Secretary of State’s office.

“Making sure signatures match is fundamental to security on your ballot,” Larimer County Clerk and Recorder Angela Myers said. This year, there are between 1,300 to 1,400 uncured ballots in Larimer County, she said.

“That’s not a small number, so that can be significant in close races.”

In 2020, 21,838 ballots were rejected for signature verification, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. The office doesn’t track how many ballots were initially rejected and then cured.

Here’s how the process works.

Who is checking the signatures on ballots?

There are several layers of verification if a signature discrepancy is detected.

First, a trained election judge will compare a voter’s signature on the ballot envelope with their signature in the statewide voter registration. If the judge has any doubt that the signatures match, a team of two bipartisan election judges will review the signature on the envelope and compare it to a list of previous signatures in the state’s system. (For example, a signature used when renewing a driver’s license.)

“Because people’s signatures can morph over time, the opportunity to look at that signature over time can be helpful,” Myers said.

If that team of judges doesn’t think the signatures match, the county then sends a letter to the voter.

In many counties, machines, similar to those used in banking, will verify signatures before any discrepancy is reviewed by an election judge.

In Arapahoe County, officials conduct daily audits of the machines for added security, said Tom Skelley, a spokesman for the county’s clerk and recorder’s office.

How are voters notified if there is an issue with their ballot?

County clerks will send a letter to any voter who has a signature discrepancy or missing signature on their ballot. Voters will also be notified by email, if there is one on file.

The clerk will provide a letter with instructions on how they can return the signed affidavit, asking them to confirm they signed their mail-in ballot, with a photocopy of an acceptable form of ID to their county election office.

What is the deadline to fix a ballot?

County clerks must notify a voter within three days of discovering a signature discrepancy and no later than two days after Election Day, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

Voters must return their signed affidavit and an acceptable form of ID no later than 11:59 Nov. 16. This can be done electronically, by mail, by text, or in person at a polling center or a county clerk’s office.

“I would hope that every single person who receives a short letter will act and act swiftly,” Myers said. “Every single vote matters.”

How does a voter fix their ballot via text?

Colorado voters can use a program through the Secretary of State’s Office, called TXT2CURE, to submit the additional information needed to resolve a problem with their mail-in ballots and make sure it is counted.

To use the system, voters need their voter ID number and an acceptable form of identification. A voter ID number can be found by logging into Colorado’s online voter registration system at GoVoteColorado.gov. A list of acceptable forms of ID is available here.

To use the TXT2Cure system, voters can text the word “COLORADO” to the number 28683 and click the link sent in the reply text. Then, click “Cure My Ballot” and enter the voter ID number. Voters will be prompted to provide their signature by signing the screen on their phone and taking a photo of an acceptable form of ID.

The voter’s information is electronically sent to their county clerk to process.

“It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3,” Myers said.

The tool was designed to reduce the number of ballots rejected because of missing or inconsistent signatures, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. It’s geared for younger voters who statistically have more ballots with signature discrepancies.

Since 2020, more than 16,000 ballots have been cured using the TXT2Cure program, the office said.

What happens if a voter does not respond?

Counties will collect the ballots and send them to prosecutors for investigation.

Where can voters check to see if their ballot has been counted?

Voters can check to see when their ballot was received and if it was successfully counted by logging into BallotTrax.

Read more at The Colorado Sun

The Colorado Sun is a reader-supported, nonpartisan news organization dedicated to covering Colorado issues. To learn more, go to coloradosun.com.