County and State Officials Express Confidence in Corrective Action
With nearly 15,000 Teller County voters now receiving new ballots, following a vendor error, local and state officials are confident that the Nov. 7 election situation has been corrected. More importantly, they say Election 2023 is back on track.
However, due to the importance of the Nov. 7 vote, many residents are still raising questions.
According to officials, eligible voters should have now received their ballots. They face a deadline of Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. to return their ballots to a designated drop-off area, or by voting in-person at the Woodland Park Public Library. Details are available on the county clerk’s website of the options available. It is, though, too late to mail your ballot in.
With a heated school board election on the way, many Teller County voters were anxiously awaiting the arrival of their ballots shortly after they were slated to get mailed out on October 16.
But when the ballots arrived a few days later, residents realized that the ballots were not correct.
According to an earlier press release sent out by Teller County Clerk and Recorder Stephanie Kees, her office became aware on Oct. 17 that close to15,000 voters in the county received incorrect ballot packets due to a vendor error. She said that the vendor was in the process of rectifying the error and that correct ballots would be sent out by October 20 at no cost to the county.
At the time this article was written, the new corrected ballots had been sent to the affected residents that live in the northern and central parts of the county. The ballots sent out to voters in southern Teller County were not affected by the error.
The incorrect ballots that were first sent out stated, “Ballot Type: PO-UPRHS” in the upper right corner and they only had the ballot question 7A on them. The clerk and recorder’s office asked residents who received the incorrect ballot to discard it and wait until the new one arrives.
If voters had already cast a vote on the incorrect ballot, it will be held by the clerk’s office until election day on November 7. The incorrect ballot will only be counted if the voter does not turn in a correct ballot by the November 7 deadline.
The new and correct ballots, sent out on October 20, lists the ballot question 7A, along with Propositions HH and II and the three Woodland Park RE-2 school board director races. The new ballots can be dropped off at three 24-hour local ballot box outlets until November 7 at 7 p.m. In addition, a designated voter service center/polling center, allowing folks to vote in-person or to hand their ballots to a designated official, is available at the Woodland Park Public Library. In addition, early voting at certain, scheduled times, started on Oct. 30.
Ever since the error was found, the county’s clerk and recorder’s office has sent out daily updates on the situation. The office also warned voters in the Cripple Creek/Victor School District RE1 to not dispose of their ballots because the ones they received were correct.
The voters in southern Teller County (Cripple Creek and Victor area) are asked to turn in the ballots that they received because only electors in other parts of the county were sent incorrect ballots. Voters that received correct ballots initially will not be sent new ballot packets.
The clerk and recorder’s office stated that they have worked closely with the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office to ensure that the process of correcting the vendor mistake went smoothly. The Secretary of State’s Office helped the county ensure that every one of the 14,812 voters that received incorrect ballots were sent a proper replacement ballot.
On October 19, Kees’ office sent out a press release, stating that the process of sending out replacement ballots was going as planned. “The Secretary of State’s office was on site today for support and believes all processes are being handled in a manner that will support the integrity of the election,” stated clerk and recorder officials.
On October 20, the office reported that the new ballots were deposited into the mail- stream. The office said they expected residents to receive the replacement ballots by the early part of last week.
Residents and Local Leaders Voice Concerns About Ballot Error
As soon as the news of the incorrect ballots getting sent out broke, social media channels went up in a frenzy. Many residents said they were disappointed about the fact that an error with the ballots occurred as one of the impacted areas encountered the most heated school board elections in local history, and a race that attracted national media attention.
Some on social media have used the recent incident as a reason to stray away from the mail-in ballot system. Other residents think that the election should be postponed by a month or so in an attempt to ward of lawsuits that could arise on either side of the heated school board race.
Some of the school board candidates have also raised concerns about the mistake made by the ballot vendor. Some leaders and residents fear that people won’t vote twice, so they will not have a chance to pick who they want to fill the school board director positions.
Others worry about possible confusion created by voters turning in duplicate ballots. Overall, many are concerned that the error could possibly change the outcome of either the school board race or the ballot questions. Besides contested races, voters must deal with two contested board races and
Tim Dienst, the executive director of the Ute Pass Regional Health Services District (UPRHSD), said that he fears the error will confuse voters about the 7A ballot question, which asks for approval of an additional sales tax to help provide better services (see related story). He said that he is afraid that voters that turned in the first ballot will then decide not to vote on the ballot question in the second ballot in fear of getting in trouble for voting twice.
Dienst wanted to remind voters that they can vote on the ballot question in the second correct ballot, even if they already turned in an incorrect one. If they do not answer the question in the correct ballot, their answer on the first ballot will be discarded.
Residents need to make sure that they fill out the correct ballot in full so that all votes get counted.