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Ballot calls confusing to voters

KIM MARQUIS

SILVERTHORNE – A legitimate organization trying to get out the vote this Nov. 2 may be confusing local voters with an advertising pitch that tells them to “meet their new voting booth” and look for packets in their mailboxes adorned with a red couch.When Silverthorne resident Bob Kieber picked up his phone Thursday afternoon, it took just a few minutes for him to become suspicious of the caller on the line who asked if he had received a packet that would make voting in the Nov. 2. election easier. “You can do it from your couch,” Kieber recalled the man on the line said. “Is this legit?” Kieber asked. “Yes, it’s a legitimate ballot,” the caller answered. Kieber had not received anything in the mail. After becoming more suspicious and asking a few more questions, Kieber said the line went dead – the caller hung up on him. Alliance For A Better Colorado is trying to “get out the vote” by sending packets in the mail including postcards for residents to fill out and receive an absentee ballot. The organization recently started making calls – 1,900 in Summit County – to tell residents to check their mailboxes and look for the packet with the “red couch.”According to regional director Jeff Gordon, the advertising gimmick suggesting to voters that their living room furniture is “their new voting booth” may have been “silly.” Parts of the script callers read go something like this: “Hi, I’m calling about a mailing with a red couch on the cover … To vote from the comfort of your couch, all you have to do is sign and date the application … please send back the application as soon as possible.”Summit County elections official Vicky Stecklein said the efforts are possibly confusing voters, although the operation is legitimate.It is unclear whether Silverthorne resident Joseph Lambrecht, who received a call Friday morning, was talking with Alliance For A Better Colorado or someone else. At any rate, he too became suspicious.”The caller wanted to know if the mail-in ballot had arrived yet,” Lambrecht said. “I didn’t request a mail-in ballot but asked her if it was an application for a ballot or if it is, in fact, the ballot. She said, ‘Oh, no, it is in fact the ballot.'”Lambrecht proceeded to ask her if she was calling on behalf of one of the political parties, the state of Colorado or Summit County and the caller answered “No” on all counts. “She never said who she was calling on behalf of but did say she was calling from the Canadian side of Niagara Falls,” Lambrecht said. “At that point we talked about the weather while I tried to process this.”Lambrecht said he became suspicious the call was a scam. He asked her once more if she was encouraging people to use the mail-in ballot, also known as an absentee ballot, and the caller said “No.” Gordon was not sure how callers for Alliance For A Better Colorado were trained. In response to the confusion, he said, “It could have been a misunderstanding on the part of the voter, but we are not sending ballots to anyone. Nobody should be under that impression.”Several organizations are trying to boost voter participation in Colorado through postcard mail-ins, but Stecklein said the programs present problems. In this case, the program generated a few calls to her office from people who were concerned it was a scam.Typically, a postcard is signed by the voter, then it is returned to the organization with postage paid and the organization in turn sends it to the elections office. “They can misunderstand the call and think a ballot will be sent to them and then they wait,” she said. In addition, once a voter requests an absentee ballot their name will be marked out at the polls, so people can get confused on election day. “They think they’re doing such a good thing but they’re making it so complicated that people are just worn out,” Stecklein said. Kieber and Lambrecht both said they plan to vote at the polls Nov. 2. Kim Marquis can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 249, or at kmarquis@summitdaily.com.


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