By Conor McCue

DENVER (CBS4) – While Coloradans were watching on election day to see who would win, the nation was watching to see how the voting process would go. After long lines and election mishaps around the country, Tuesday’s primary served as another test of Colorado’s mail-in voting process, which has received praise from experts and criticism from the president.

(credit: CBS)

On Wednesday, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold called the election an “overwhelming success” in a news release. A New York Times article about the primary also said “Colorado offers a model for voting smoothly in a pandemic.”

“Despite misleading attacks, disinformation, and attempts to make vote-by-mail a partisan issue, Colorado’s election proves that mail ballots are the key to accessible voting during this health crisis,” said Griswold.

Amber McReynolds, who was the director of elections in Denver for 13 years, calls Colorado’s system the “platinum standard.” She’s currently the head of the National Vote at Home institute and Coalition, and spent election night around some Colorado voting precincts.

“This isn’t a partisan issue, this isn’t about outcomes of the election, it is simply about who votes,” McReynolds said.

McReynolds helped develop Colorado’s statewide vote-by-mail system and now helps other states and cities implement similar ones. After Tuesday, she believes Colorado is still the national standard, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to test how elections are run all across the country.

“Colorado was able to excel,” she said. “Turnout set record numbers and it’s really, frankly, an example again on the national stage of what can be done in a pandemic to ensure all voters can vote in a safe and secure way.”

(credit: CBS)

Unlike other states, which had issues with in-person voting, Colorado election officials reported no major problems Tuesday. Instead, voter turnout was higher than the 2018 primary, with nearly 1.6 million voters. Of all voted ballots, 99.3% were returned by mail or drop off box.

“We have really figured out a solution that encourages engagement, encourages turnout, encourages voting,” McReynolds said.

According to McReynolds, Colorado’s continued election success counters recent claims by President Trump and others that voting by mail leads to fraud.

“We don’t see this wide scale fraud that the president has claimed and others have claimed, and primarily because we’ve built a system that not only values voters, but also values security,” she said.

Still, Colorado can improve, McReynolds says. She is hopeful the state will one say provide voters with prepaid postage and accept postmarks.

“We in Colorado put voters first seven years ago and we’ve continued to build on that,” McReynolds said.

Conor McCue

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