Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Last Chance for Mail-in Ballots

Hurry, voters, hurry.

A friend who’s not exactly a man-of-the-people and thus would like to avoid crowds at the voting booths Tuesday was confused by a recent Denver Votes! mailing from the Denver Elections Division. He’s smart, if not social, but he was still puzzled by these instructions:

Note! 1. 2007 elections in Denver wer all-mail ballot elections. 2008 elections are not all-mail ballot elections. 2. You will not receive a mail-in ballot unless you apply for one. 3. If you have already applied for a mail-in ballot for 2008, you do not need to apply again.

My friend had applied for a mail-in ballot all right, years ago, when he was added to the permanent mail-in ballot list. And every election, those ballots arrived like clockwork. But by Wednesday, he still hadn’t seen one for the August 12 Colorado primary. Did that mean he needed to apply? The written instructions provided no guidance.

So I put his question to Alton Dillard, spokesman for the DED. And in a word: yes.

That’s because the state law changed in 2007, essentially wiping out all previous requests for mail-in ballots. But many voters didn’t realize this, because Denver held four all-mail elections anyway last year, and ballots were automatically sent out.

Not so this year. “A lot of people think that because they got the ballots in 2007, they’re already on the permanent mail-in ballot list,” Dillard said. “They’re not.” They need to reapply, and when they do, they can indicate whether they want to be on the permanent mail-in list. “Once you send it in, that’s it,” he added.

But that advice came too late for next Tuesday’s election. In order to get a mail-in ballot for that day, you must run -- not walk -- to the Denver Elections Division office at 3888 East Mexico Avenue, and pick one up before the end of today, August 8.

If you’d rather just bite the bullet and vote in person, there’s plenty of time to request a mail-in ballot for the general election in November; you can download an application from, or watch your mailbox for the next election division mailing.

And if you sign up but your mail-in ballot never arrives? “If the system sees that you’ve requested a mail-in ballot, you can vote in person, but you’ll have to vote a provisional ballot,” Dillard says. Which means you’ll spend even more time in line than regular voters, which you were trying to avoid in the first place.

I called my friend with the news. I’d barely said “deadline today” before he was out the door, headed for East Mexico.

That left me with just one last tip from Dillard: “Remind people we are a caucus state. Because it’s a primary, there’s some confusion; people think they’re going to see a vote for presidential candidates.”

And if they’re confused about that, they definitely aren’t the type of people my friend wants to run into at a polling place on Tuesday. -- Patricia Calhoun

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun