Early voting underway in Mesa County; thousands of ballots already in

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MESA COUNTY, Colo. (KJCT)-- Business at the elections office is in full swing, as votes are officially being tabulated and in-person polling has opened up.

More than 10,000 ballots have already been turned in by Mesa County residents, which equals about one-eighth of our voter population.

Hundreds of volunteers are helping out to make the election process a smooth and accurate one.

“Both my wife and I are volunteering this election,” said volunteer Jim Heinrich. “It’s a sense of responsibility to make sure it works.”

Elections officials said there are more registered voters in the county this year than in the 2012 presidential election, and they expect voter participation to be high.

“We usually see well over 90 percent participation in presidential elections,” said Sheila Reiner, the Mesa County Clerk and Recorder. “To compare, in a gubernatorial election, we see participation in the 70 percent at the high end.”

What happens behind the scenes is a detailed process. Volunteers like Jim Heinrich put in hours of work and training.

“We check to see if they are active voters,” he said. “If they are inactive voters, we assist them in filling out a new voter registration form.”

The volunteers work before and after the ballots are mailed out to residents. Once everyone receives ballots, the elections office has to be able to answer questions about a variety of scenarios.

“After ballots hit the voters then it was questions like – ‘I made a mistake’,” Heinrich said. “Or ‘what do I do, I signed my spouses ballot envelope’. The questions changed in variety."

This year’s political climate and accusation of a ‘rigged election’ has some questioning the legitimacy of the process. Reiner said residents have nothing to fear, and invites them to come down and learn about the process themselves.

“It’s a very solid system and it is very secure as well,” Reiner said.

Volunteers come from both the Republican and Democratic parties. Reiner said they are given a list of party representatives from the caucuses, and are required by the state to fill positions from that list first.

Once a ballot is turned in, it goes through a series of steps.

Volunteers first open the ballot, look it over, verify the signature, and then the votes are tabulated.

If a ballot needs to be resent to a resident, the first ballot that was sent is voided to ensure people don’t accidentally vote twice.

While all this hard work goes on behind closed doors, voters say they are excited to make their voices heard early on in the election.

“The integrity of our country is on the line, and for the first time in my life I felt it was very important to vote,” said Nathan Barnhart who voted in person on Monday.

The Mesa County Elections Office wants to remind residents to never give a stranger your ballot to turn in.