Colorado county clerks: thinking outside the box regarding the box

Logan County has gone to drive-by voting, with Clerk and Recorder Pam Bacon installing a new ballot drop box that allows voters to pull up and drop off their ballots.

Logan County Clerk and Recorder Pam Bacon demonstrates how the new drop box can be closed and locked for times when there are deadlines for official documents, like ballots or tax payments. (Photo courtesy of Sara Waite / Sterling Journal-Advocate)
Logan County Clerk and Recorder Pam Bacon demonstrates how the new drop box can be closed and locked. (Photo courtesy of Sara Waite / Sterling Journal-Advocate)

Bacon also got the OK from Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams’ office to make it a “multi-use box” so that county residents can drop off their motor-vehicle registrations.

Other county clerks also use 24-hour ballot boxes, which under secretary of state rules must be monitored by surveillance cameras with the data being preserved for 25 months.  It is illegal to drop off more than 10 ballots at a time, and the outside of the envelopes must be signed by the voter in order to  be counted, state  elections director Judd Choate said.

According to the Sterling-Journal Advocate, Bacon also reached out to the other county departments, with Treasurer Patty Bartlett believing the box would be useful for receiving tax payments. Bacon said residents can drop off correspondence for any county office, such as a letter to the county commissioners.

“Whatever is in there,'” Bacon told the newspaper, “we’ll make sure it gets to whatever county office it needs to.”

Here’s a look at ballot-box practices in some other counties, per their clerks or election officials:

Arapahoe County, Clerk Matt Crane: We have considered allowing other county mail to be deposited in these boxes but decided against it. We are concerned about mixing mail/bills with our ballots, considering the volume we receive. We have 15, 24-hour boxes in the county, and around 26 mail-ballot drop-off locations, typically in buildings with regular office hours.

A 24-hour drop off ballot box shared by Adams and Arapahoe counties. (Arapahoe Clerk's Office)
A 24-hour drop off ballot box shared by Adams and Arapahoe counties. (Arapahoe Clerk’s Office)

One good thing we have been able to do is partner with Adams County to have two joint county boxes. We share one box in Aurora and one in Strasburg.  Our office receives all ballots from the Aurora box, separate out the Adams ballots, and return them to Adams County. They do the same for us with the ballots in Strasburg. This has been a great partnership that has allowed both counties to save money and provide better service for our citizens.

Adams County, chief deputy Christi Coburn: We have offered our drop boxes to municipalities for their municipal elections, and I suspect some of them will take advantage of it next year in their spring elections.  Also, we have begun early discussions with the treasurer about “converting” the ballot drop box at our main government center site to accept tax payments in the spring. We share three of our drop boxes;  two in Arapahoe,  in Strasburg and Aurora, and one with Jeffco in Westminster.  The signage is clear that voters can drop their ballots off for either county.

Garfield, Clerk Jean Alberico: Garfield County has used  a multi-use drop box for years.  The former treasurer, Georgia Chamberlain, and county clerk, Mildred Alsdorf, worked together to put the box on the curbside, which at the time was near the main entrance to the courthouse. Then the SOS said we could only use that drop box if it was covered by a surveillance camera so we started covering the box up with a large plastic BBQ grill cover during elections — and we heard from our voters.

In 2012, I worked with the treasurer and she allowed a camera to be mounted in her office and we started using the box again as a 24/7 ballot drop-box during the elections.   The county is building a new administration building in Rifle and there will be a 24/7 drop box at that site.

Beginning in 2006, Clerk Alsdorf made arrangements with the town clerks in Carbondale, New Castle, Silt and Parachute to serve as drop off sites for all our county-run elections.  The town clerks do an amazing job for us. The City of Glenwood Springs offices are located near the courthouse and I work with the city clerk to make sure that city ballots dropped off in our curbside box get to the city on a daily basis.

Chaffee County Clerk Lori Mitchell. (Photo by Lynn Bartels)
Chaffee County Clerk Lori Mitchell. (Photo by Lynn Bartels)

Chaffee, Clerk Lori Mitchell: We installed an outside ballot box in Salida in 2013 that was available during working hours. It was so successful we added a box this year in Buena Vista and have installed security cameras at both sites so ballots can dropped off any time of the day or night. We are sharing the costs of the cameras with the county, which will use them for  courthouse security after the election.

Gunnison, Clerk Kathy Simillion: We have a heater installed for the security camera, otherwise it won’t work it’s so cold here at election time.

 Mineral, Clerk Eryn Wintz: Mineral County installed the 24-hour drop box directly in the back exit of my office right behind my chair (think of a library slot for book returns).  The exterior of the building is covered under sheriff surveillance and I am considering opening the drop box for all county business. I think it’s a great asset.

 Moffat, Tori Pingely, elections deputy: We have allowed the city of Craig to make use of our permanent drop box. We are interested in having a dual-purpose drop box in two of our smaller communities, at their libraries. We would gladly make it accessible for a book drop off or something along those lines.

Montrose, Clerk Tressa Guynes: Montrose County does not have a drop box.  I have requested funding for a drop box in our 2016 budget.

Ouray, Clerk Michele Nauer: I have been tossing this same idea around for the last year or so. I was considering asking other county offices (i.e. treasurer for tax payments) to split the cost. Having a shared/multi-use drop box here at the Ouray courthouse would be especially helpful since we are closed on Fridays.

Rio Blanco, Clerk Boots Campbell: Rio Blanco does not have a ballot drop box at this time. We are seriously considering getting one or two for 2016.  Multi-purpose is a great idea that we will consider at that time.

Routt, Clerk Kim Bonner: We just installed our drop box last summer after the primary election so have had limited use of the ballot box.  A business-improvement district ran an election on the same day as the general election and many of those ballots were dropped in our 24/7 drop box, which is located in the alley behind the courthouse.  Whenever we received those ballots, we would call and ask that the BID representative pick them up for processing.  We have not had the occasion to use it in any other type of election since then, although we would be happy to allow for its usage if an entity were to run its own election.


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