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Warning issued about primary election ‘ballot harvesting’

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DENVER -- Ballots are out for the primary election on Tuesday, but Arapahoe County officials are warning voters not to trust strangers who offer to turn in their ballot for them.

In the primary, registered Republican and Democrat voters will pick which of their party candidates will go on to the November general election for every office, except president.

But officials in Arapahoe County are warning voters  about solicitors going door to door to collect ballots.

Charlene Hadynski said she was worried when someone knocked on her door, campaigned for a certain candidate and tried to get her ballot on the spot last week.

"He asked if he could take my ballot in for me and I said no," Hadynski said. "A couple days later, a lady came by knowing that he had been at my front door and she again asked if she could take in my ballot."

It has been dubbed "ballot harvesting." It's not new. But officials said it is concerning. Arapahoe County Clerk and Recorder Matt Crane said his office sees this every year since switching to mail-in ballots.

"Would I as a candidate go around and collect ballots? I would not," Crane said. "That to me would cross an ethical line."

It's a situation ripe with concerns that voters could feel pressured to cast their ballot for certain candidates. Crane said it's also concerning not knowing what a stranger might do with someone else's ballot in hand.

"It may be somebody who has the best of intentions and they're just trying to help people participate in the process," Crane said. "However, it could be somebody who's coming along and perhaps working for a rival campaign."

It is legal in Colorado for someone else to collect another ballot. One person can turn in up to 10 ballots per election. But Crane said it's best not to put a vote in the hands of strangers.

"The safest thing you can do is return it yourself," he said.

Concerned voters can check the status of their ballot at MyVoteColorado.com.

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