Summit County’s top election official said Wednesday the county is frantically trying to remedy a printing error that resulted in the issuance of inaccurate November mail-in ballots to some local voters.
On Tuesday Summit County Clerk Kathleen Neel said she was made aware of the mistake when a Breckenridge voter called to report receiving a ballot with Dillon questions. An inquiry to the county’s Denver-based printer, Frederic Printing, confirmed that voters in Breckenridge, Blue River, Dillon, Silverthorne and Copper Mountain were mailed ballots listing questions intended for voters in neighboring districts.
It is not yet known what costs, if any, the county will incur because of the error, Neel said. A call to Frederic Printing was not returned by press time.
“We’ve spoken to them (Frederic Printing) and the focus now is to get the correct ballots printed and in the mail to voters before Friday’s deadline,” Neel said. “Once that is done we’ll deal with whatever happened (that led to the error).”
Aside from seeing that their ballots do not have the correct local questions, Neel said, an easy way for voters to determine whether they have received the correct ballot for their district is to check the “ballot style number.”
For example, voters living in Breckenridge should have been sent ballot style 3, but were issued ballot style 6 and should not vote with them. Corrected ballots should be issued to voters before Friday’s deadline, Neel said.
Despite the efforts on behalf of the clerk’s office, Carbondale resident Harvie Branscomb said there likely will be confusion among Summit County voters, in addition to increased challenges in making sure ballots are calculated accurately in November.
Branscomb is a former chairman of the Eagle County Democratic Party and currently volunteers with Coloradans for Voting Integrity, a bipartisan citizens group dedicated to fair, accessible and verifiable voting on the state and national levels. Branscomb also serves on the Uniform Voting System Project’s public participation panel aimed at ensuring a consistent voting system across all counties.
“Most voters are going to have a problem differing between the right and wrong ballot because it is not obvious to tell,” Branscomb said. “It’s going to be imperative the county makes sure the correct ballot is being returned by the voter by checking the ballot number on the stub or at least the correct ballot style.”
Although it’s going to add significantly to labor costs, Neel said, the county has developed a system to protect the integrity of the election. The first wave of defense is a state-mandated practice of verifying all ballots by double-checking that signatures on a ballot match signatures on file with the county.
The clerk’s office also plans to go through all of the voter records to determine which voters have been affected and to make sure they submit the correct ballot by election day.
Voters who submit only the incorrect ballot will have only their votes for state issues counted, Neel said. Voters who submit both ballots will only get credit for the correct ballot.
“We will get through this, we have a process and we will be very thorough to maintain the integrity of the election,” Neel said. “The most important thing is to make sure the election is accurate, and we will go through every record one by one to make sure voters submit the right ballot style.
“I don’t want citizens to lose faith in the election process, because we’re on it.”
Approximately 20,000 mail-in ballots were sent out shortly after midnight Tuesday, Neel said. Residents in Frisco and unincorporated Summit County, which represents the majority of registered voters, received the correct ballots. However, 7,000 of the ballots were wrong, she said.
She urges anyone who received an incorrect ballot to call her office at (970) 453-3471. Early voting starts Oct. 28. The general election is Nov. 5.