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Hundreds of primary votes in El Paso County won’t count. Here’s why

Author: Rachel Riley, The Gazette - June 15, 2018 - Updated: June 16, 2018

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Voter Wendy Flynn drops ballots into a metal bin at the Cottonwood Creek Park Recreational Center in Colorado Springs in 2007. (The Gazette file photo)

Nearly 600 unaffiliated voters in El Paso County returned ballots for Republican and Democratic primaries, an error that disqualifies each of the ballots.

As of Friday morning, 595 of the county’s roughly 140,000 unaffiliated voters had turned in ballots for both primaries – despite four different reminders printed on ballots and envelopes that voters should only mark and return one ballot, according to the County Clerk and Recorder’s Office.

By state law, none of those ballots can be counted, said county Clerk Chuck Broerman.

For the first time this year, unaffiliated Colorado voters can cast ballots in either the Democratic or Republican primary. Secretary of State Wayne Williams kicked off a Colorado-wide campaign in the spring to educate unaffiliated voters about the change.

“I hate to see even one person’s vote not count,” said Broerman, whose office has also repeatedly publicized that unaffiliated voters were to receive both parties’ ballots in the mail this year, but could vote in only one.

The county mailed out ballots for the June 26 primary election on June 4.

As of Friday morning, the Clerk and Recorder’s Office had received ballots from 18,739 Republicans, 8,664 Democrats and 7,059 unaffiliated voters. Unaffiliated voters who incorrectly returned both ballots account for about 1.7 percent of the total turnout so far and about 8.4 percent of unaffiliated voters who have submitted their ballots.

In Denver, the percentage was much lower.

As of Friday afternoon, Denver had seen 6,185 unaffiliated ballots returned, with 215 of those rejected because the same person voted in both primaries – a 3.4 percent rejection rate, said Amber F. McReynolds, Denver election director. Denver, too, conducted an extensive campaign to educate unaffiliated voters about the rules ahead of the election, she said.

In other states with similar election laws, the rejection rate for unaffiliated voters is about 6 percent to 8 percent, Broerman said.

For unaffiliated voters who make the mistake, there’s nothing that the Clerk and Recorder’s Office can do to give them another chance to vote, Broerman said. Voters who return both ballots also are not notified that their votes will not count, he said.

Ballots must be received by the Clerk and Recorder’s Office by 7 p.m. on June 26. Postmarked ballots received after the deadline cannot be counted. The Clerk and Recorder’s Office recommends that voters do not return their ballot by mail after June 20.

Anyone who did not receive a ballot, needs a replacement ballot, or would like to register to vote and vote in person should visit a voter service and polling center.

A center is now open at the clerk and recorder’s main office at the Citizens Service Center, 1675 W. Garden of the Gods Road. On June 18 and June 25, centers will open at additional locations around the county.

24/7 Drop Boxes, at 15 locations throughout the county, will be open until the deadline on Election Day. Drop-off locations include the Colorado Springs City Administration Building at 30 S. Nevada Ave., the Fountain Police Department, the Falcon Fire Protection District, Manitou Springs City Hall and Monument Town Hall. For a full list of locations, visit epcvotes.com. Anyone with questions about the election can call 575-8683.

Rachel Riley, The Gazette

Rachel Riley, The Gazette