It’s hard to watch television or scroll through social media without seeing ads from Sen. Cory Gardner and former Gov. John Hickenlooper, or from President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. Key races are more than heating up, and ballots will be mailed to Coloradans on October 9.

Early voting at the polls begins on October 19, but many Coloradans will receive mail-in ballots as soon as next week. Colorado has sent every registered voter a ballot by mail since 2013 to limit administrative costs and ensure a fair process. Sending ballots by mail has also led to higher voter participation.

“Colorado is a real pioneer when we talk about voting by mail or voting at home,” says Lucille Wenegieme, director of communications and public relations for the National Vote at Home Institute. Voting by mail marries security and voter convenience, Wenegieme says.

Voting by mail in Colorado is simple. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Make sure you are a registered voter by visiting the Secretary of State’s website. To receive a ballot in the mail, you must be registered by October 26. (Note: If you prefer to vote in person, you have until Election Day to register.)
  2. Wait for your ballot to arrive. Ballots will be coming to your mailbox after October 9. Voters can also track their ballot by signing up for email and text notifications through BallotTRACE if you live in Denver County, or through BallotTrax if you live elsewhere in the state.
  3. Fill out and sign your ballot. You don’t have to complete every question or race for your votes to count. When signing your signature, do your best to match the signature on your driver’s license, marriage certificate, or other legal document. “Try and use your regular signature,” Wenegieme says. “This is not the time to try something fun and fancy.” She says it’s also important to follow the instructions on your ballot as they may vary by county and district.
  4. Return your ballot by mail before October 26. After this date, voters are encouraged to take their ballot to a voting drop box, which will begin accepting ballots on October 19, or vote in-person at the polls to ensure your vote is counted by 7 p.m. on Election Day. Drop boxes and polling locations can be found by entering your address here. (Note: If you vote in person, your mailed ballot will not be counted by the county clerk, according to the Secretary of State’s website.)

“As we’re encountering this pandemic, we’re encountering election offices having to close because of COVID-19 outbreaks. We’re encountering voters not being able to really commit to a single day of voting in a really high-contact scenario, or a potentially high-context scenario. … The best way to make sure that you’re voting safely is to vote at home [and] to vote on a ballot that you receive from your elected official through the mail,” Wenegieme says.

Do you have other questions about mail-in voting? Visit the Secretary of State’s election page.