It appears ballot issues with last week’s election aren’t over yet.
This week reports surfaced that several Summit County voters discovered their mail-in ballots were returned to them and were not counted last Tuesday on Election Day.
Tim Gagen, Breckenridge town manager, said Tuesday, Nov. 12, during a town council meeting that Summit County officials identified as many as eight people who had their mail-in ballots returned due to postage issues.
“The post office should bring in all ballots and the county pays the difference for postage,” Gagen said.
Summit County Clerk Kathleen Neel, who runs elections locally, said Wednesday she couldn’t remember exactly how many people called her office to report the problem. However, she said Gagen’s estimate of eight affected voters seemed accurate.
Neel also said the county does have a postage due account with the local U.S. Postal Service branch in Breckenridge. Although this doesn’t apply to all mailings, the account allows postal employees to deliver election ballots regardless of insufficient postage. Those deliveries are documented and the post office settles the charges by drawing funds from the county’s account.
David Rupert, a spokesman with post office’s corporate communications department in Denver, said Wednesday that records indicate 84 ballots were received by the Breckenridge post office with no postage and 11 ballots were received with short-paid postage during the November election. All 95 of those ballots were delivered to the county without delay, Rupert said.
However, Amy Anderson, of Silverthorne, told the Summit Daily News she also had her mail-in ballot returned to her this week, but she suspected it was because of a printing error. Her return address with a barcode was printed on the back of her ballot envelope. She suspects it was routed back to her accidentally when fed by postal employees through an automatic mail sorter.
Anderson said she was disappointed her ballot was returned and not counted last week. She and her husband conducted a lot of research, she said, before casting their votes in favor of Amendment 66, which would have provided public school funding through a $1 billion statewide tax increase. The initiative failed 836,324 votes to 452,166.
Despite the wide margin of defeat, Anderson wondered how many local voters had their ballots returned and if those uncounted votes could have changed the outcome of closer local elections.
With just nine suspected returns, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
According to final election results, only two local ballot initiatives — in Blue River and Copper Mountain — were decided by less than a dozen votes. Neel said she did not know where the eight people live who reported having their ballots returned due to insufficient postage.
Although Rupert said he could not comment on Anderson’s returned ballot without seeing the envelope, he did say that to date no one from the county has spoken to the local postmaster or the election mail coordinator about any ballots that might have gone undelivered.
“In the case of Summit County, we are not aware of any returned short-paid ballot issues,” Rupert said in a Postal Service-issued statement. “We go to extraordinary efforts to help the election process and we are proud of how smoothly the first all-mail election went in Colorado. The Postal Service is older than the republic itself — and we have a vested interest in the continuance of our democratic process. All of our employees handle ballots with the utmost of responsibility and care.”
“In the case of Summit County, we are not aware of any returned short-paid ballot issues. We ... are proud of how smoothly the first all-mail election went in Colorado.”
Postal Service spokesman