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This is why some Colorado counties are still counting ballots

Vote counts continued in several Denver metro area counties Thursday, two days after the midterms. The wait fueled the rumor mill, as some people speculated that something irregular was going on in the election offices.

In Douglas County, 11,000 ballots are yet to be counted as of 5 p.m. Thursday. We stopped by to get the elections division to check out what the process of counting ballots looks like.

Why are they still counting ballots?

The Douglas County Clerk and Recorder, Merlin Klotz, said they were slammed by volume of ballots this year. The county said 175,000 people voted in the 2018 midterms - not far off from the 181,000 people who voted in the 2016 presidential election. Sixty-thousand of them came in Monday and Tuesday alone.

The ballot was comparatively longer for this election, which means they take longer to process.

Who else is still counting ballots?

Denver and Jefferson counties were still working through ballots Thursday, as well.

Alton Dillard with Denver County Elections said in an e-mail, "We had record Election Day turnout and a three card ballot, so we will be counting throughout the rest of week.”

Jefferson County reported they received around 300,000 ballots in total, and as of Thursday evening, still had roughly 10,000 more to process.

The same is true in Arapahoe County, where the elections office had to count the 167,000 ballots cast over the three weeks leading up to election week. Around 117,000 ballots came in just four days from Saturday to Tuesday.

Lynn Bartels with the Secretary of State's Office said this is all normal, especially when so many ballots are turned in the last two days leading up to election night.

In an e-mail Thursday, Bartels said, “Last night there were still around 400,000 left to count statewide, down to around 325,000 today."

Military and overseas voters have eight days after an election to turn in their ballots.

What are some of the issues?

In Douglas County where we went, they are dealing with humans being humans - as in people who marked a bubble for every gubernatorial candidate, or used arrows to point to who they actually wanted to vote for.

Douglas County Elections Logistics and Technology Supervisor Kyle Rulli said some people also wrote in John Elway and Mickey Mouse as candidates. In Denver, we're told Bozo the Clown was also a write-in.

Rulli said to prepare to decipher a ballot, they train off of the Secretary of State voter intent guide. A set of resolution judges decide if the vote for that specific race counts or not. Rulli said if the rest of the ballot was filled out properly, those votes count. All of this is done by hand.

Douglas County is also tracking down people who didn’t give the right signature or ID, who then have a little more than a week to fix the problem.

“There is a methodical process. Compared to the electronic system we've come off the paper ballot system is secure,” said Klotz. Klotz was up for re-election in Douglas County and as of Thursday evening, was ahead of his Democratic opponent by close to 33,000 votes.

Arapahoe County had an extra problem to deal with this week. A malfunctioning ballot counting machine delayed the final tally.

What does security look like:

In Douglas County, every ballot is under 24-hour surveillance.

Even Klotz, as the county clerk and recorder, doesn’t have a key to the room where the ballots with issues are sorted out, and the processed ballots are sealed and stacked.

The ballots are then stored in a warehouse cage that only four people in the county have the means to access. The ballots are stored for at least 25 months.

When do counties have to report results?

Bartels said the only mandatory reporting is election night.

After that, counties decide when they want to update. Some do more frequently. The 5 p.m. update was the most recent out of Douglas County.

Final race results should be ready November 26.

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