This is what democracy sounds like: the thrum of engines and the beeping of forklift trucks rolling backward as Denver’s 420,000 mail ballots arrived by the truckload on Monday morning.

The ballots – printed by K&H Printing, an Everett, Washington, firm that specializes in mail ballots – glided in the General Mail Facility in Denver around 8 a.m. and should be processed into the mail by Monday night, said U.S. Postal Services spokesman David Rupert.

Rupert said Denver voters should find them in the mail by later this week.

And when that happens, voters will have the opportunity to track the progress of their ballot through a program called Ballot Trace.

Each ballot contains a unique bar code stamp that is part of a program the Postal Service calls “intelligent mail.”

Basically, it enables both the Postal Service and the Denver Election Division to track the delivery of each ballot as it makes it way to every household.

“Denver has done it like nobody else,” Rupert said. “I’m not sure they were entirely the first in the nation. But they are certainly a leader.”

Voters can sign up for the program at the Elections Division page at Denvergov.org and clicking on the Ballot Trace icon.

“People track it the same way you would track a normal package,” said Alton Dillard, a spokesman for the Elections Division. “So, you get proactive text messages or emails whatever, letting you know where your ballot is.”

When voters drop their ballot off at one of the 28 ballot collections boxes around the city, they can also track their progress until they are processed and accounted for, Dillard said.

If this year’s municipal election is like most others, more than half the ballots delivered will never record a single vote.

Dillard said the average spring municipal election usually generates a 30 percent turnout.

“Now that people are used to getting these types of (mail) ballots for every election, we hope it will be higher,” Dillard said.

Turnout this year may be different. There are several competitive races for mayor and city council involving an unusually high number of candidates.

And there are two unique, first-in-the-nation ballot initiatives. One would establish the right of homeless people to live on the streets. Another would seek to decriminalize possession of small amounts of so-called magic mushrooms.

Voters have until May 7 to cast their ballots.

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