A new, 24-hour ballot drop-off box has been installed for this election season at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College. There will also be a voter service and polling center set up Monday and Tuesday at the concert hall.
The box and voting center are the result of House Bill 19-1278, a Colorado bill that modified a number of election codes and required counties to establish drop boxes on state-funded universities that have more than 2,000 enrolled students.
The drop box was established in February and was available to use during the primary elections. However, it is bound to see more traffic during its first presidential election.
La Plata County Clerk and Recorder Tiffany Parker helped to establish the box and hopes it increases student turnout. Parker wanted to place the box near the gas station at the entrance of the SkyRidge neighborhood to make it accessible to community members as well, but the legislation specified it must be placed on campus.
Paul DeBell, assistant professor of political science, is a part of a new collaborative group on campus, FLC Engage, organized by the Political Science Club, Political Science Department and the Legislative Affairs Committee of the Associated Students of FLC, which works to increase voter turnout on campus. The news that a ballot box was coming to campus was a welcome one.
DeBell said the group held a kick-off event Feb. 14, titled “Fall in Love with Voting,” to celebrate the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the ballot box. The group had planned to hold a number of other events to increase voter turnout but has changed many of them to a virtual format because of COVID-19.
DeBell has been working with Parker to ensure FLC students are informed and able to vote. Parker made a video for students to inform them how to register in La Plata County and has also spoken in classes about mail-in voting.
DeBell said he could only speculate whether the voting center will increase student turnout, but he said, “We also know that making voting transparent and accessible is correlated with higher turnout.”
In past years, DeBell said it has been more difficult for FLC students to vote. Especially for first-year students without a car who don’t know the Durango area well.
“This ballot box on campus, and the voter services center that we are so excited to have on Monday and Tuesday of next week, those are really great examples of how public policy around voting transparency and accessibility can increase voter turnout and that, of course, yields big benefits down the road for our sense of a legitimate government and our sense that our different and diverse communities have had a voice,” DeBell said.
HB 19-1278 also mandated a voter service and polling center be placed on Native American reservations where tribal councils request one. There will be a center at the Southern Ute Cultural Center and Museum in Ignacio on Monday and Tuesday.