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Shaky signature nearly ends 57-year voting streak

Peter Cronas has never missed voting in elections since 1966— two weeks ago, that almost changed.

ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. — Do you remember the first time you voted?

I’ll go first. 

It was 1998, I was 18 and a freshman in college. I spent the night at my parents' house the night before the November election to vote for the first time. My precinct was at my middle school, in the choir room. 

Peter Cronas voted for the first time when you had to be 21 to vote, not 18. 

“Voting has always been very, very important to me. And I’ve never missed voting in elections since 1966,” Cronas said. 

His streak almost ended two weeks ago, when Arapahoe County could not verify the signature on his ballot envelope. 

“My signature doesn’t look like it used to look like,” Cronas said. “I’ve got the shaky hands syndrome now, and it’s not going to go away.” 

Cronas was notified by the Arapahoe County Elections Division with a letter in the mail and an email. The message was that his signature could not be verified, and that the county needed him to confirm that it was Cronas who sent back and signed the ballot. 

“You can, actually, read my signature when I first started signing my name," Cronas said. "And now, you can maybe read it? But good luck with that."

“Our bipartisan election judges weren’t able to confirm that the signature on his ballot envelope was, in fact, his because it had changed,” Arapahoe County Elections Director Bill Mast said. 

The county sent discrepancy letters to 1,332 voters. That could mean a situation like Cronas', where the signature did not match. It could mean a voter forgot to sign their envelope. It could also mean that a voter forgot to provide a copy of their ID if it was their first time voting. 

Of the discrepancy letters sent out, 328 – or 25% of ballots – were cured and counted. 

Statewide, there were 16,826 ballots that could be cured. Of those, 4,964 – or 30% – were cured. The remaining 11,862 were not, and those are likely sent to the county’s District Attorney’s Office for more review, to make sure a crime was not committed by someone else turning in and signing another person’s ballot. 

When a ballot is not cured, it is a benign issue most, if not all, of the time. It is rare that it results in a charge for election fraud.  

“About 70% of our voters who do end up curing their ballots do so through electronic means. They receive that message by email and are able to sign using their smartphones or submit their copies of their IDs through an email to us,” Mast said. “We’re able to update their signatures on file, so that in future elections, these kinds of things don’t happen to them.” 

“The people at the Elections Division of Arapahoe County are really, very, very competent, very efficient, and they got it done in a very, very fast time frame. I was impressed,” Cronas said.

This was more than just a signature issue for Cronas. 

“My father always made it a very special occasion when it was time to vote,” Cronas said. 

It was about a tradition that started 57 years ago with his dad.

“He’d get his shoes shined. He’d get a clean white shirt out, a freshly pressed suit, and we’d walk together over to the election polling place, which, as it turned out, was my old grammar school,” Cronas said. “He, basically, demonstrated to me, by example, how important it was to vote every time there was an election, because your voice needs to be heard.” 

Cronas was so moved that his vote counted, he wrote a letter to the Arapahoe County Elections Division:

My hands shake when I write – not surprising or unusual since I’m almost 79 years old. But, for the first time ever that shakiness caused me some real grief. My home county in Colorado, Arapahoe, rejected my mail in ballot this past October (2023) because my signature did not match the signature on my Colorado driver license. Fortunately, Arapahoe County has a very robust process and very efficient people in place to cure issues like a signature discrepancy, and as a consequence my vote was properly counted before the deadline. 

While communicating with Arapahoe County officials about this issue I pointed out that I have never failed to vote in any election since I first became eligible to vote in 1966 (that’s 57 years ago). In turn, that reminded me of why I’ve always been so laser focused on making sure I cast a ballot in every election, without fail. The reason is my father. My dad was a Greek immigrant who came to the U.S. as a young man sometime around 1925. He served in the U.S. Army during W.W. II, was stationed in Camp Carson, CO, and became a U.S. citizen after the war ended. I still vividly remember election days when I was just a kid. My dad made absolutely certain he carved out the time to vote from his very busy work schedule. He would polish his shoes, put on a clean white dress shirt, a neck tie, and a freshly pressed suit. He took me with him to the polling place, which in New York City, Brooklyn to be specific, was a nearby Public School. I always stepped into the voting booth with him to watch. He told me that voting was very important and that every citizen should make certain they never miss a chance to vote. He may not have actually said those exact words to me, but he most certainly lived them by example – he never missed what he believed was his obligation to cast a vote, until he became too ill to do so. 

Now thanks to the very competent folks at the Arapahoe County Elections Division, my vote was counted and as a result I was able to continue my dad’s Election Day tradition. I did not fail him, nor did I fail in my own obligation to vote. 


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