Election 2019 in Colorado Springs (copy)

The El Paso County Clerk and Recorder’s Office is expecting 80% voter turnout in the November election.

El Paso County election officials are preparing for 372,400 voters in November, a big jump up from the last presidential election.

Enthusiasm among voters, competitive races and many ballot questions are expected to drive an 80% turnout in El Paso County, up from 70% in 2016, Clerk and Recorder Chuck Broerman said Tuesday. 

The voter turnout estimate is to some degree a best guess among professionals that factors in polls as well as trends the Secretary of State's Office is observing, he said. 

"It’s part scientific and part just pulling in all the other factors," Broerman said. 

The Clerk and Recorder's Office is preparing to process a higher volume of ballots by hiring 600 election judges, opening more voter service centers and putting out more drop boxes, he said. 

About 95% of El Paso County voters are expected to return mail-in ballots, a process under more scrutiny this year in part because President Donald Trump has tweeted for months about what he calls dangers of fraud associated with it. His claims have been refuted.

Broerman pointed out Colorado voters can rely on one of the best election systems in the country, with an established mail-in voting system and layers of security.  

Concerns about the coronavirus have prompted many older poll workers to stay home, according to national news outlets, but El Paso County has not struggled with the national shortage of election workers, Broerman said. His office has hired all but 75 of the election judges it expects to need. 

"The community has really stepped forward," he said. 

The office is also opening 35 voter service centers, up from the 28 it opened in 2016 to help those voters who need to register, replace a ballot or want to vote in person. The office expects to see 16,000 voters cast their vote in person on Election Day, Broerman said. 

To ensure an accurate count of the votes flowing into the office, Broerman will be testing the tabulation machines later this month to make sure they are ready to scan ballots. Once tested, the machines will be sealed until the office is ready to start tallying officially, he said.

The machines are kept in a locked room that is under video surveillance, he said, and are not connected to outside computer systems. 

El Paso County expects to be able to release results on election night despite the high turnout because Colorado clerks can start counting ballots 15 days ahead of time, Broerman said. 

"Typically, those results are fairly robust," he said. 

Some states can't start counting until Election Day, and that's why they lag behind, he said. 

Contact the writer at mary.shinn@gazette.com or (719) 429-9264.

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