The sooner you get it in, the sooner they stop calling you. That's what residents of a Denver suburb described as the only way to cease the incessant calling from the campaigns. And to the chagrin of voters, both major party campaigns are going all-out to make sure no one forgets to send in their ballot.
Colorado's nearly three million registered voters began receiving ballots on Oct. 14. Campaigns can track which voters have not yet returned their ballots, as well as who hasn't registered at all. As a result, residents have experienced a significant amount of harassment from campaigns. This will likely continue through Nov. 4, since people can also register on Election Day and vote in person. Voters can also register online and receive a ballot in the mail until Oct. 27.
Colorado is only the third state, after Washington and Oregon, to implement a universal mail-out system. Both of those states saw dramatically higher turnout after transitioning to all-mail elections, but the difference may not be as pronounced in Colorado, where 73.5 percent of voters turned out in 2010.
The all-mail option, along with the technological capabilities that campaigns have at their disposal, have changed the dynamics of the election. Campaigns can track who has and who hasn't sent their ballots back in real time, with data posted by each county.
"One of the nice things about these mail-in ballots is that they post pretty up-to-date records of who has submitted their ballot, so people who have received, but haven't yet sent it in, campaigns have a list of those people," Seth Masket, an associate professor of political science at the University of Denver, said. "They can go knock on their door, give them the information they need, remind them about the postage and the due date." "The whole mail-in ballot is interesting in that a lot of voters treat it more or less like a bill -- some people pay it immediately and some people wait until the last minute,".
By lowering the barrier to being able to vote, which is a good thing for democracy, may increase voters who don't usually turn up in non-presidential years, they will hopefully turn out in a bigger force.
The campaigns of Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and his Republican challenger, Rep. Cory Gardner, have set up unprecedented field efforts to goad the procrastinators into voting. Udall's campaign has 25 field offices, compared to 15 in 2010. It also has 100 field organizers, up from 40 in the last midterm. Republicans, for their part, have 14 field offices across the state, twice as many as they’ve had before, and have been aggressively recruiting volunteers to canvass and make calls. Gardner reportedly has 2000 paid canvassers, though his campaign has been less forthcoming about its get out the vote strategy, perhaps hoping to catch Udall by surprise.
Not everyone is happy with the new voting format. Republicans, including some in Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper's administration, have been expressing concerns that the universal mail-out system may make it easier to commit voter fraud. To mitigate that risk, counties have electronic databases that allow elections officials to check whether a voter has cast a ballot in more than one precinct. Conservatives and "voter integrity" organizations are also unsettled by the state's provision that people may collect and deliver up to 10 filled-out ballots, arguing that so-called "ballot harvesting" opens the door to coercion.
"There's some evidence that by spreading out Election Day over several weeks, it actually hurts turnout a little bit, because it's no longer one special day that everything is oriented around," Masket said. "It becomes a part of regular life for a few weeks and people might not get the same information about when to turn out to vote."
NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote!
Michael H. Drucker
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