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Secretary of State Jena Griswold wore white in honor of women’s suffrage at her 2019 swearing-in. Photo courtesy of the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office

Is Colorado Ready for November?

Whether it’s 1920 or 2020, any election cycle is fraught with talk about security and voting rights—but this year is unlike any ballot season we’ve seen.

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Secretary of State Jena Griswold, who provides oversight for Colorado’s elections, says the state is uniquely prepared for November 3. Here, she shares her thoughts on access to voting, COVID-19, and mail-in voting.

On access to voting: “Colorado was a leader in the nation in securing women the right to vote,” Griswold says. But, she adds, that fight to ensure voting access continues. “In 2020, you just have to look across the nation to see the fight and degradation of voting is in flux.” She points to voter registration rules in North Dakota (state-issued IDs) and Georgia (registration deadlines) as two examples of disenfranchisement today. (Colorado has same-day registration.) “I want to make sure that every eligible Coloradan, whether they live on tribal land or in the middle of Denver, has access to cast their ballot,” Griswold says.

On the pandemic: “It was already a big election year, and then we added in this pandemic,” Griswold says. “We need to make sure that even during our times of crisis, our democracy isn’t eroded.” For the primary—and beyond—her office has issued emergency rules, put together with Governor Jared Polis’ office and an epidemiologist, about socially distanced voting. She’s offering special funds to help clerks implement innovative ideas, from curbside ballot pickups to voting vans. And Griswold is establishing guidelines for safe in-person voting too, including decontamination of voting booths. She’s also asking counties to increase election workers’ hourly rate by $3 as a type of “hero pay.”

On claims discrediting mail-in ballots: “I strongly oppose the use of the pandemic to suppress the right to vote,” Griswold says, pointing to Milwaukee, where only five voting locations were available in the recent primary (instead of 180) because of COVID-19 concerns. “No American should have to risk their health by casting their vote,” she says. “Studies show that no political party benefits more than another with mail-in ballots.”

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