We set out to clarify some of these things by talking with officials from the Secretary of State's office and the Denver elections division.
Here are some common questions we've been getting, along with the answers:
Q: How is it that campaigns are able to tell that I've voted early or by mail?
A: Whether or not you have voted is considered open public information under Colorado law. How you vote is secret and there are no records kept of how individuals voted. Campaigns are able to order daily updated information from the Secretary of State's office for a processing fee, which includes the names, addresses, and party affiliations of people who have already voted. Denver's election division makes this record available free of charge on its website. This information allows campaigns to avoid contacting voters who have already cast ballots. People who are worried that the publication of their address may pose a threat to their safety may have their information kept private by contacting the Secretary of State's office.
Q: How can I check whether my ballot has been accepted?
A: If you vote in-person, you don't have to worry about this. Mail-in voters can check the status of their ballot on this website.
Q: Could election day be moved back because of Hurricane Sandy on the East coast?
Q: What happens there is an error on my ballot?
A: Under state law, a bi-partisan team of election judges will manually review your ballot. If your ballot contains "overvoting" (voting for more candidates than is allowed in a given race), your vote will not be counted for that race. Other races in which you voted properly will be tallied. If your ballot is damaged or otherwise not able to be scanned, election workers will copy the selections made on your ballot onto a fresh ballot. The old ballot will be kept for record keeping purposes, while the fresh ballot is scanned.
Q: How are my voting choices kept secret?
A: When you vote in person, none of your personal information is attached to the ballot you cast. One set of records is kept to track who has votes, while the ballots are handled separately. Mail-in ballots are handled in much the same way. The envelope is used to track who has voted and the ballot is handled separately. There is no identifying information linking the ballot to the envelope.
Q: Are votes being tallied now?
A: Ballots are being counted and recorded already, but the actual tabulation of votes is not allowed until election night. In other words, the data from early voting and mail-in ballots will be in computerized form waiting to be added up when polls close, but the button will not be pushed to calculate how people voted until then.
Q: How is all of that data secured?
A: Each county has slightly different procedures, but Denver's setup gives you a general idea. The ballot scanning machines are networked to the computers that tabulate results, but that's as big as the network gets. Election computers are not connected to the internet or other computers outside of the building for security reasons.
(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)