Although there was never any evidence that it happened, the Colorado Secretary of State's Office is considering a new rule designed to prevent so-called ballot harvesting in future elections.

The proposed rule calls for county clerks to include a new line on the envelopes voters use to return their mail ballots, one that would ask for the name and address of any person collecting them to be turned in.

Normal get-out-the-vote efforts for candidates routinely contact voters who haven't yet turned in their ballots, asking them to do so. In some cases, those campaign volunteers will offer to take them in if a voter is physically incapable of doing so.

Some critics of that practice say it opens the door to potential election fraud, saying such volunteers could turn in only those ballots that help their candidate.

During last year's U.S. Senate race, there were allegations that some people were doing that, but no evidence ever surfaced that it was actually happening, said Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert.

Regardless, Staiert said it makes sense to have some sort of mechanism in place to guard against it, just in case.

"It used to be that clerks kept a log and anytime someone came in with more ballots than their own, they would sign the log and indicate how many they dropped off. That's how they tracked it," she said. "That doesn't exist anymore, and because we have so many (ballot) drop boxes, we have no way to track it."

Mesa County Clerk Sheila Reiner, however, says the whole idea is completely unenforceable and should be dropped from the proposed rule changes.

Reiner said the proposed rule could place unnecessary costs on county clerks, all for something that isn't happening anyway.

"It could cause some confusion for sure," she said. "I don't know what the implications for costs are, but there will be some additional ink on the envelopes. And without a statute to back this up, to tell us we have actual authority to void a ballot on that criteria, we're not going to look at it."

Staiert countered that the proposed rule doesn't require voters to do anything, nor does it place any requirements on clerks to monitor it.

What it could do, however, is give some voters peace of mind that they know to whom they are giving their ballot, and give election officials a way of tracking who brought them in should an issue arise later, she said.

It also could serve as a warning and reminder to ballot collectors that state law limits them from bringing in no more than 10 per any election cycle, Staiert said.

"If we have some complaint of somebody delivering too many ballots, we could go back and look at the envelopes," she said. "It does give a place for voters to do that if they had concerns or wanted to indicate who they surrendered their ballot to."

Recommended for you