Summit County clerk grapples with sending double number of ballots to unaffiliated voters
May 15, 2018
"My head hurts," Summit County Clerk & Recorder Kathleen Neel told the Board of County Commissioners last Tuesday. "And it's not going to stop hurting until at least December."
Neel is sharing a headache felt by county clerks across the state since voters passed Proposition 108, the initiative which allowed unaffiliated voters to cast a ballot for either party's primary, back in 2016. Aside from having to deal with typical election-year issues, such as ballot certification delays and ensuring the proper delivery of ballots to military members overseas, the clerk also has to make sure to send ballots from each party's primary to every single unaffiliated voter when none were sent before.
On top of that, the clerk has to find a way to stress to those unaffiliated voters that they can only submit a ballot to one party's primary — or risk having both invalidated if they fill in and send back both. Colorado has about a million unaffiliated voters statewide, who make up a plurality of the state's voters.
This will be the first year the initiative is put into practice, and given the stakes in 2018 — when major federal, state and county offices are up for grabs during a critical midterm general election — primary season has become all the more onerous, and expensive.
According to Summit's clerk and recorder office, Summit County has 8,693 unaffiliated voters. Compare that to 5,922 voters registered as Democrats and 4,232 Republicans. To comply with Prop 108, Neel and her office will have to send out 8,693 more Democratic and 8,693 more Republican ballots to each and every single unaffiliated voter.
"Proposition 108 requires the Summit County Clerk's Office to mail ballots to approximately 9,000 additional voters this year, causing an increase in printing and mailing costs," said Stacey Campbell, chief deputy clerk. "The ballot 'packets' for unaffiliated voters that have not specified a party ballot preference are larger than a typical ballot mailing, which also increases material costs."
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Campbell said that it has become of paramount importance for her office that unaffiliated voters know to send only one ballot back.
"Our main focus is educating unaffiliated voters who receive multiple ballots to only return one ballot," Campbell said. "We cannot emphasize enough to Summit County unaffiliated voters that you can only vote and return one ballot — you cannot vote both."
Campbell added that the county and the state are doing everything they can to help voters get their ballots in properly, and that they are available to assist if necessary.
"We also highly encourage the use of the mail ballot in Colorado versus voting in person, as we have for years," Campbell said. "The Colorado Secretary of State's online voter portal is also convenient to update your voter record. We will also have Voter Service Polling Centers available on Election Day, to assist voters in person."
The clerk and recorder's office will be sending out ballots the week of June 4, and primary election day is June 26. Voter Service Polling Locations will be open in Breckenridge, Frisco & Silverthorne on Election Day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
For more information about the primaries and local elections, call the Clerk and Recorder's office at (970) 453-3479, or visit http://www.summitcountyco.gov/126/Elections.