Below is a summary of an exceptional voting experience geared towards a small number of voters who have special needs in Colorado. The method of voting consists of a Democracy Live product for delivery of ballot to voter and Colorado Secretary of State’s Secure Ballot Return by Linoma/HelpSys for electronic return. Cure of a signature discrepancy using a third internet-traversing product by 2VOTE.com that operates on smart phones is also demonstrated. In this text “SOS” means the Colorado Secretary of State. Registered trademarks are the property of the respective companies whose products are appearing in this webpage. This information was collected during the November 2020 General Election in Colorado.
(1) Check the registration and ballot status
Colorado has arranged for a company “BallotTrax” to provide ballot status tracking for all counties except Denver. In Denver, voters use a different system. There is also a page to check ballot status on the SOS web page. They seem to contain differing data. Below is the info from the BallotTrax system that I saw before I started the voting process.
First, I logged in to BallotTrax. Apparently, this requires the same steps as to sign up for BallotTrax. I am asked to provide my first and last name, birthdate and residential zip code. Note below the “ballot outbound” status of my ballot packet. “Ballot packet” is the correct syntax for ballot sheets that are enclosed in an envelope for delivery by USPS.
BallotTrax shows that my registration is sufficient to have received a paper ballot in the mail. But because I am far from home and performing caregiving for a disabled family member, I have an opportunity to vote without using paper.
You may as well know that I am very supportive of paper ballots and particularly hand marked paper ballots (HMPB). Any problem with the markings on hand marked ballots that might interfere with tabulation can be remedied by use of a well performed risk limiting tabulation audit. Because I am choosing to return by electronic means, I will not see the paper ballot that will be scanned for tabulation and possibly selected later for a risk limiting tabulation audit. That is an unfortunate defect of this voting method.
(2) Open the SOS website at myballot.sos.colorado.gov
There are several ways to discover the address of this page, such as by following the SOS UOCAVA guidance:
or disability guidance: https://www.sos.state.co.us/pubs/elections/accessibleVoting.html
or one may wind ones way to this page starting from govotecolorado.com:
(3) Click on Vote My Ballot if one of the 4 conditions apply.
(4) Enter the requested data (name, birthdate, county):
(5) Check the box for “I am requesting an emergency ballot” (or other applicable choice) and click CONTINUE:
(6) Click on “I certify that the statement above is true” and click CONTINUE to see the contest choices on the ballot style assigned to your residence address.
Some sample portions of the ballot style assigned to me are shown below.
(7) Vote the several pages of contests
(some examples shown here):
(8) Check the review screen.
And preferably as Step 8 print the voted ballot sheet and verify its contents.
This Colorado remotely voted ballot pdf does not contain a bar or QR code and neither does it have one when votes are recorded on it. To be tabulated or audited the voter intent must be read from the human verifable text that is seen here.
(9) Return to the website and click the PRINT APPLICATION TO SIGN button:
(10) Fill out and sign the application and the affirmation statement to accompany the ballot.
Personal data will already be filled in (it has been redacted here). There is also an image of a secrecy sleeve you can print:
The instructions for an accessible return are different and require physical return of the paper per Colorado law.
(11) Print and use a secrecy sleeve? Probably only if returning a physical ballot sheet inside an identifying envelope.
The secrecy may not be maintained upon opening but the secrecy sleeve will signal the desire and expectation of privacy. Note that the affirmation above includes a waiver of right to a secret ballot.
(12) Fill in the following application for an emergency (disability) or UOCAVA electronic ballot (the one that you just voted and reviewed and perhaps printed).
(13) When these are scanned into pdfs and if you remember where the ballot pdf (presumably printed as pdf by a Microsoft print driver) is located, go to the Secure Ballot Return system (https://ballotreturn.sos.colorado.gov/) and enter the data required:
(14) Drag and drop or browse the file system to select the files for your application and ballot image. Click Submit and wait for the confirmation:
(15) Check your return status using either BallotTrax or the Secretary of State ballot status page. In the page below from govotecolorado.com click either the “Sign up for BallotTrax here” or “Check my mail ballot status” to enter one of the two systems.
(16) Enter the data (first name, last name, zip code and birthday):
(17) Open the My Voter Registration page
(18) Click on Ballot Information:
Note we learn that the pdf of the ballot and application have arrived at the county and have been queued for signature verification judges to check eligibility. This valuable information suggests we wait for the outcome of the verification decision.
(19) Try looking a day or two later for an update on either BallotTrax or on the Secretary of State website. On second thought try the SOS site.
The BallotTrax doesn’t seem to update for a rejection for cure purposes. Here is the result from the SOS site showing the “rejection”.
Here we see that the judges have not approved the ballot packet for further counting and election officials are waiting for a cure from the voter.
(20) Wait for the cure letter or an email or phone call to tell you of the need for and way to cure. Or proactively contact the county to find out the next steps.
(21) Receive either an email from the county (if email address is on the SOS system) or wait for a letter through the mail. Here is what the email looks like and also what the letter in the mail contains:
Note that the requirement to “return by 11/12/2020” is unexpectedly vague even though it is a hard deadline at the election office. Also since the voter might be in any time zone, it would make sense to make this deadline very specific.
Here is the Affidavit that is printed on the reverse side of the above letter:
(22) Begin the cure process.
There are alternative ways to cure using in person drop off, mail, fax or email. The yellow card above explains how to use the new “text to cure” process. I will now demonstrate how to use the TXT2CURE App on a smart phone: First text “Colorado” to 28683.
(23) Click on txt2vote.2vote.mobi/colorado_votes/ – the link that shown in your messaging app.
The site showing on the returned page is https://txt2vote.2vote.mobi/colorado_votes/index.jsp?mode=cure
Apparently sometimes the server is down such as it was during the weekend of 11/7 and 11/8/2020. In that case one of two different error notifications result. Here is one of them:
Here is another:
But later on Monday 11/9 this was the more anticipated result:
(24) Enter the voter ID that is shown just above the barcode on the cover letter:
(25) Click on Cure My Ballot (English):
(26) Click on “Yes I returned my voted ballot”.
At this point if the phone is not being held in landscape mode the app will ask you to reposition it. If you then turn the phone to vertical again (portrait mode) the app is likely to reload at Step 22. This may become frustrating.
Step (25) repeated as needed after the warning to rotate the phone: Note that the images are now landscape mode as the app will thereafter require. I signed by fingertip and then attempted to take the required photo of the ID but my somewhat outdated Samsung S5 would not respond at all to the “Take Photo” button. So I used a Samsung S10 (a relatively recent phone) to try again. Here are the sequence of images from the cure on the more modern Samsung Galaxy S10:
Check the box for Yes. I have not tried to check the other box.
If the app is working the next screen gives you the Affidavit language and a place to sign.
(27) Read the affirmation and if agreeable, sign on the line with your finger.
On my phone a fingernail or a stylus will not work. Note the “undo last stroke” is a very helpful button that helps to repair any mistakes that occur while signing. The request to “use your full legal signature in the box below” seems to be asking too much. I hope that this signature will not be uploaded as a the new best reference signature for the SCORE voter registration database and hence become the first reference signature for the next election. Colorado law somewhat ironically does not require a signature check on the cure document nor does it require a cleansing of any of the existing signatures on file. In most cases, the most recent presumed voter signature becomes the reference signature for the next election.
Click on the Submit button after signing.
(28) On the Samsung Galaxy S5 the “Take Photo” button simply didn’t do anything and the submit button took me back to step Twenty Two. On the S10 the button opened dialog to link a photo app from the devices library. Here is that dialog:
(29) Select a suitable camera application and allow it. I clicked “Just once.”
(30) Place your election allowable ID in a well lighted position and take a photo with your own camera app that will be launched by the 2VOTE app.
Review the photo as shown above and approve with “OK” or otherwise “Retry.”
At this point the app will spend a surprisingly long time rotating a circular pattern:
If you get bored as I did and decide to stop the internet connection, the app will object right away. If you use a back arrow once or twice, the following screen will result. Click “Continue.” That is Step Twenty Eight part two.
The app seems to easily recover from a form resubmission from a previous page and then at the end the following screen announces presumable success. Note that this does not indicate that a cure has taken place nor does it confirm that the local officials have received your data. As far as I can tell, the feedback on this crucial delivery of information is inadequate and if the app does not deliver the data the user will not be informed:
At this point one would wait a day and then start looking at BallotTrax or the SOS ballot status page to see if the status goes from rejected to accepted. I am still waiting to see that transition at this point.
End of story… for now.