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Protecting Election 2020 from Covid-19: A Toolkit for Colorado Activists

If the Covid-19 pandemic continues into November, we will need to change our election practices to make sure voters don’t have to choose between their health and their right to vote. We have the solutions to make our elections both safe and accessible to all. And with this toolkit, you will know what reforms your state needs and where to focus your efforts.

Last Updated: August 19, 2020
Published: August 19, 2020

This is part of the Brennan Center’s Toolkits for Activists Across the Nation.

Jump to a section: 
Political Context  |  What’s in Place and What’s Needed  |  Key Dates

Administering an election under pandemic conditions requires undertaking steps to keep voting accessible, safe, and secure. The guide below lays out the problems Covid-19 poses, what preparedness measures Colorado has, and what changes are still needed. But first, we offer some political context for your advocacy.

Advocacy Focus: Local Reform

Local officials have a lot of responsibility over elections. They are a great place to focus advocacy efforts. Though state officials can make any of the changes in this toolkit, we highlight some examples of changes that local elections officials can also make with this symbol:🔸

Political Context

Below is a list of the relevant officials and information about the legislative session.

Governor: Jared Polis (D)  

Secretary of State: Jena Griswold (D)

Legislature: House (D) Senate (D)

Legislative Session: The legislature last adjourned on June 15, 2020. Either the legislature or the governor can call a special legislative session.

Local Elections Officials: In Colorado, a number of county officials share responsibilities for administering elections. You can look up individual county officials here.

What Colorado Has and What’s Needed

Three priorities. There are three key areas where we need to shore up our elections systems for success during a pandemic: registration, mail voting, and in-person voting.


Covid-19 may disrupt the traditional ways Americans register to vote, like get out the vote drives or registering at government agencies. In the crucial weeks before the registration deadline, postal service disruptions may lead many registration forms to arrive at election offices after the deadline.

Preparatory Measures Colorado Already Has Taken:

  • Online voter registration
  • Election Day voter registration

Changes Still Needed:

  • Prepare to extend online and mail voter registration deadlines based on conditions in the state

Voting by Mail

Because of Covid-19, long lines and crowds at the polls pose health risks not seen in previous elections. Allowing every citizen to vote by mail reduces the number of people at the polls on Election Day and decreases the exposure risk to Covid-19.

Preparatory Measures Colorado Already Has Taken:

  • All voters can vote by mail without an excuse
  • No notary or witness requirement for return of mail ballot
  • No ID requirement to vote by mail
  • Provides post-election notice and cure opportunity for defects on absentee-ballot envelope, including signature mismatch or missing signatures
  • Sends vote-by-mail ballots to all voters 

Changes Still Needed:

  • Provide pre-paid postage for voting by mail
  • Accept late-arriving ballots postmarked by Election Day

In-Person Voting

Even with expanded mail voting opportunity, states cannot close polling places. To do so may disenfranchise voters without Internet and mail access, or those who do not wish to cast a ballot by mail. In-person voting must be done in accordance with health guidelines to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Preparatory Measures Colorado Already Has Taken:

  • In-person early voting
  • Vote centers on election day

Changes Still Needed:

  • Ensure sufficient polling places are open and resourced on Election Day🔸
  • Open more in-person early voting locations🔸
  • Take proper public health precautions to ensure safe polling places🔸
  • Hold training sessions for polling-place workers well in advance of Election Day, so that election officials can better anticipate problems with staffing and logistics🔸
  • Increase access to curbside voting at polling locations

Advocacy Focus: Protecting Polling Places

No matter how prepared Colorado is as a matter of policy, elections officials and advocates must stay vigilant about ensuring safe, healthy in-person voting is an option for everyone all the way through Election Day. Here are some important things to know about who makes decisions about polling places in Colorado and what rules govern the process:

  • State law requires a minimum number of voter service and polling centers, as well as drop boxes, for each county, but county clerks and recorders may establish more than the minimum required.🔸
  • County clerks must submit election plans to the Secretary of State at least 90 days before an election.🔸

Key Dates for Colorado Elections

  • June 22, 2020: Deadline to register to vote and receive a mail ballot for the Primary Election
  • June 22 – June 30, 2020: Early Voting period at Vote Centers for Primary Election
  • June 30, 2020: Primary Election
  • October 19, 2020: County drop boxes must be open to receive ballots for the General Election
  • October 19 – November 3, 2020: Early voting period at voter service and polling centers for General Election
  • October 26, 2020: Deadline to register to vote and receive a mail ballot for the General Election
  • November 3, 2020: General Election Day