A primary primer for Jefferson County

Column by George Stern
Posted 2/18/20

Now that we are in the middle of the first presidential primary in Colorado in 20 years, the Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder’s office has been getting a lot of questions. Here are some answers: …

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A primary primer for Jefferson County


Now that we are in the middle of the first presidential primary in Colorado in 20 years, the Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder’s office has been getting a lot of questions. Here are some answers:

Why have this primary now?

In 2016, Colorado voters overwhelming passed a ballot initiative that re-established a presidential primary. Though this election is new for many Colorado voters, we run it just like all other Colorado elections. We mailed ballots on Monday, Feb. 10, and voters have until 7 p.m. on Election Day, Tuesday, March 3, to complete and turn in their ballots to any of our 24-hour drop boxes or in-person vote centers. Jefferson County has doubled the number of drop boxes available (using state – not county – funds) from 15 to 30 in the last year. Voters may also return their ballots via the U.S. Postal Service, but postmarks do not count, so if you choose to use this method, we recommend mailing your ballot by Feb. 24.

This election is the presidential primary only. The state primary is still in June and will have candidates for U.S. Senate and House, as well as state and local races.

How do unaffiliateds vote?

For the first time ever in a presidential primary in Colorado – and for only the second time in any primary – unaffiliated voters can participate. Registered Republicans will receive a ballot with the Republican candidates for president. Registered Democrats will receive a ballot with the Democratic candidates for president. And unaffiliated voters will receive both ballots – but may only return one! Voters registered with minor parties (e.g., the Libertarian or Green Party) are not eligible to vote in these primaries.

Can 17 year olds really vote?

Because of legislation that passed last year, Colorado has joined 16 other states across the country – including red and blue states – in allowing 17 year olds to vote in primary elections if they will be 18 by the general election. So, a young person who is 17 today and will turn 18 by Nov. 3, 2020 can vote in Colorado’s March and June primaries. Eligible 17 year olds who were pre-registered received a ballot along with everyone else. Eligible 17 year olds who were not pre-registered – and any eligible citizen who is 18 or older – can register to vote up until 7 p.m. on Election Night by visiting one of our in-person vote centers.

Why are there candidates on the ballot who have already dropped out?

State law requires the Secretary of State’s office to certify ballot content several weeks before we mail ballots, so there are candidates on both parties’ ballots who have already dropped out. We recommend you do your research to find a candidate you support who is still in the race.

Any risk that Colorado will have the same issues as Iowa?

Iowa has caucuses, which are run by the political parties, and often by volunteers. Colorado has primary elections, which are run by professional election administrators. Our Jefferson County elections team has more than 100 years of election experience between us. Additionally, Colorado has been called one of the safest states to cast a ballot by experts on both ends of the political spectrum because of the measures we take to ensure election security, including paper ballots, machines that are never connected to the internet and are tested by bipartisan teams, and rigorous post-election audits.

How can I learn more?

You can find more information, including voting locations and an election security backgrounder at VoteJeffco.com.

You can also receive the same info on your mobile phone by texting “Jeffco” to 28683. Or, you can call us at 303-271-8111, visit us at any of our in-person vote centers, or join us at our public tour and town hall on Thursday, Feb. 27.

George Stern is the Jefferson County clerk and recorder. He lives in Golden where he also serves as a volunteer firefighter.


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