An Election Law Primer for Coloradoans

Voters can protect their civil right by understanding the law

Colorado makes voting access easy for its residents. Not only does the state offer election day voter registration, but also a bonus to voters who are registered well ahead of the election. State law mandates that ballots be mailed out directly to registered voters 22 days prior to a general election. Residents who register at least eight days prior to an election will receive a ballot by mail. The state offers a variety of locations to drop off the ballot prior to the election.

Who can vote in Colorado?

To vote in Colorado, an individual must be 18 years of age, a U.S. citizen, and have resided in Colorado for at least the 22 days prior to the election. Colorado law defines residence for voting purposes, as the primary home of the voter. Residents can leave the state for periods of time and still claim Colorado residence, if they have an intention to return.

Like many states, Colorado prohibits individuals serving felony convictions from registering to vote. However, once the sentence (including parole) is served, the state allows the individual to regain their voting rights automatically, without petitioning the state or governor’s office.

How to register to vote?

To register to vote in Colorado, residents must file an application for voter registration, and provide a form of identification at the time of voting. Colorado voters can register to vote any time before an election, or register on the day of an election. All voters who vote at the polls must provide identification. For voters who are voting by mail for the first time, they must provide a photocopy of their identification when they return their mail ballot. Colorado law allows voters to use many different forms of identification, including:

  • A valid Colorado driver’s license or valid identification card issued by the Colorado Department of Revenue
  • A valid U.S. passport
  • A valid government employee identification card
  • A copy of a current (within the last 60 days) utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that shows the name and address of the elector.
  • A valid Medicare or Medicaid card issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
  • A certified copy of a U.S. birth certificate
  • Certified documentation of naturalization
  • A valid student identification card with a photograph of the eligible elector issued by an institute of higher education in Colorado
  • A valid veteran identification card issued by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs or similar military ID
  • Tribal or similar ID

There are other available forms of ID as well, listed on the Colorado secretary of state website. Any form of identification that shows a voter’s address must show a Colorado address to qualify as an acceptable form of identification. 

Colorado will purge registrations

Inactive Colorado voters may eventually have their registrations canceled. An inactive voter is a voter who does not vote, register to vote, or update their voter registration for two consecutive general elections, which occur every two years. If the voter fails to respond to a notice sent by the Colorado secretary of state, the voter’s registration is canceled and that voter must register again.

Even with easy access to voting in Colorado, voters still can incur trouble at the polls. If your voting rights are infringed, contact an experienced Colorado civil rights attorney to ensure your rights are protected. For more information on this area of law, see our civil rights overview.

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