Student Voting Guide | Colorado

August 15, 2014

This student voting guide explains the laws for the state of Colorado. If you wish to vote from your school address, check the student voting guide for the state where you attend school. If you want to cast an absentee ballot in your home state, check the student voting guide for that state.

The Brennan Center is committed to giving students as much information as possible to help you exercise your constitutional right to vote. More than ever in recent history, changes to voting laws are being implemented in ways that can affect your ability to make your vote count. In addition to the content you will find in this Student Voting Guide, we continue to track passed and pending voting law changes here. While we are working to give you up-to-date information, we urge you to be proactive! In order to ensure you have all the information you need before casting your vote, you should also check with your state and local election officials for information about additional requirements or regulations.

This voting guide was last updated August 15, 2014.


You can register to vote if you will be 18 by the date of the next election, are a citizen of the United States, and have lived in the precinct in Colorado in which you intend to vote for 22 days immediately preceding the election.[1] Otherwise qualified 16- and 17-year-old residents can pre-register to vote, even if not 18 by the next election, but may not vote in an election until they turn 18.[2]  If you have been convicted of a felony, it may impact your ability to vote. If you think you might be affected, you should contact local election officials. Colorado offers several methods to register to vote, with varying procedures and deadlines.

You can register to vote on Election Day at a voter center.[3]

You can register online if you have a Colorado driver’s license or identification card. You can find more information about Colorado’s online registration procedures here. If you wish to receive a ballot by mail, the last day to register is the 8th day prior to an election.[4]

If you register via mail, the last day to register is the 8th day prior to an election.[5] When you register to vote in person, you may be required to answer some questions related to your residency, including about your intent to abandon residency elsewhere.[6] The paper Colorado voter registration application is available online here. You can print this form, fill it out, and deliver, mail, email, or fax it to your county clerk.

If registering through a voter registration drive, you must register no later than 22 days prior to the election, except if the 22nd day is a weekend or legal holiday, in which case the next business day is considered the last day.[7]

If you are already registered in Colorado but have moved to a different precinct, you may update your address by appearing at a county clerk and recorder’s office, or a voter service and polling center in your new county of residence up to and including on Election Day.[8] You may also update your new address information online, or by mailing a change of address form, to be received no later than eight days before the election.[9]


At School. In practice, Colorado students can choose to register either at home or at school, depending on which one they consider their principal home.[10] Students can establish residency in Colorado if they have a present intention to remain at their Colorado school address for the time being, and they intend to make it their principal home.[11] Any other interpretation of the residency laws is unconstitutional.

Your principal home is where you have a fixed place to stay, and the place where, whenever you are away, you intend to return. The formal test for residence in Colorado is an objective test:[12] in considering whether your chosen address is your proper voting residence, elections officials can look to where you are employed or have other income sources or business pursuits, the residence of your family, where your things are located, or if you own any real estate.[13] Colorado law also makes clear that you cannot be denied the ability to register to vote solely on the basis of your status as a student.[14]

At Home. Students who lived in Colorado before attending college and wish to establish or keep their voting residency at their parents’ Colorado address should have no problem doing so, unless they have already registered to vote in another state.[15] While registering to vote in another state is not automatically considered an abandonment of residency in Colorado, some judges or officials might view it as such. If you have established residency in another state and are moving back to Colorado with the intent to reside here, you will have to follow the normal registration procedures to re-register at home.

Voting in Colorado may be considered a declaration of residency, potentially making you subject to other laws that govern state residents.

Challenges to Residency. Students have the right to cast a ballot as a resident of Colorado regardless of whether you pay in-state or out-of-state tuition. Any challenge made solely on the basis of your student or tuition status is invalid. When you register, the clerk is obligated to deny your registration if he or she cannot determine your residency.[16] After you register, your eligibility can be challenged by another voter up to sixty days before an election. A hearing will be held in front of the county clerk, and the person challenging you must prove you are not eligible. You can also appeal the clerk’s decision to court within three days.[17]

At the polls, your eligibility to vote can be challenged by poll workers, other voters, or partisan poll watchers.[18] If you take an oath and sign an affidavit that you are in fact eligible to vote, you will be able to vote normally.[19] If you do not take the oath, you will have to vote with a provisional ballot.[20] The ballot will be counted if the local elections official determines that you are an eligible voter.[21]


Everyone who votes in person, whether on Election Day or by early voting, must show ID.[22] A student ID from a Colorado school satisfies the ID requirement if it has your name and photograph.[23] The following forms of ID are also accepted: Colorado driver’s license; Colorado state ID card; U.S. passport; employee photo ID card issued by the U.S., Colorado, or local government within Colorado; a pilot’s license; a military ID card with photo; a certified copy of a U.S. birth certificate; a Medicare or Medicaid card; or a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that has your name and address on it.[24] If your ID has an address on it, that address must be in Colorado.[25] If you cannot show ID, you will have to cast a provisional ballot.[26]

Voting by Mail and in Person

You may vote by mail or in-person. Mail ballots are sent to all active registered voters.[27] You may return your voted ballot by mail or hand-deliver it to the office of the County Clerk and Recorder, to a voting service and polling center, or to a drop off location.[28] Your completed ballot must be received by 7:00 p.m. on Election Day.[29] First-time voters who register by mail whose identity is not already verified have to submit a copy of their ID with their mail ballot.[30] Neither your application nor your ballot has to be notarized or witnessed. You may also choose to cast your vote in person at a voter service and polling center.[31] For general elections, voter service and polling centers are open at least 15 days up to and including Election Day; they are not required to be open on Sundays, however.[32] You should check with your county elections office for the exact dates, times, and locations.

Last Updated August 15, 2014.

[1] Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 1-2-101(1); 102(1)(e), 103.

[2] Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 1-2-101(2).

[3] Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 1-2-217.7(3)

[4] Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 1-2-201(3)(b)(III).

[5] Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 1-2-201(3)(b)(III).

[6] Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 1-2-204.

[7] Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 1-2-201(3)(b)(I); 1-2-508(1)(e)

[8] Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 1-2-216(4)(a)(I).

[9] Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 1-2-216(4)(a)(II-III) .

[10]  Residency for voting has traditionally been equated with domicile under state law.  See e.g., Sharp v. McIntire, 46 P. 115, 116 (Colo. 1896) (equating “residence” for voting with domicile as used in the state constitution).

[11] See Dunn v. Blumstein, 405 U.S. 330, 330 (1972); Williams v. Salerno, 792 F.2d 323, 328 (2d Cir. 1986).

[12] Gordon v. Blackburn, 618 P.2d 668, 671 (Colo. 1980).

[13] Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 1-2-102(1)(b).

[14] Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 1-2-103(2).

[15] Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 1-2-103(1).

[16] Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 1-2-204(3)(c).

[17] Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 1-9-101(2).

[18] Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 1-9-201(1)(a).

[19] Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 1-9-204.

[20] Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 1-9-201(1)(b).

[21] Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 1-8.5-105.

[22] Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 1-7-110(1).

[23] Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 1-1-104(19.5)(a)(XI).

[24] Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 1-1-104(19.5)(a).

[25] Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 1-1-104(19.5).

[26] Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 1-7-110(4).

[27] Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 1-7.5-107(3)(a)(I).

[28] Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 1-7.5-107(4)(b)(I)(A).

[29] Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 1-7.5-107(4)(b)(II).

[30] Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 1-7.5-107(3.5)(a)(II)(b)).

[31] Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 1-7.5-107(4)(b)(I)(C).

[32] Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 1-5-102.9(2).