Arapahoe clerk's office scrambles to send out missing ballots

Error meant hundreds of military, overseas presidential primary ballots never went out

David Gilbert
dgilbert@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 1/31/20

Arapahoe County Clerk and Recorder Joan Lopez said on Jan. 31 that her office was scrambling to mail out hundreds of presidential primary ballots after a “data entry error” meant many overseas …

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Arapahoe clerk's office scrambles to send out missing ballots

Error meant hundreds of military, overseas presidential primary ballots never went out

Posted

Arapahoe County Clerk and Recorder Joan Lopez said on Jan. 31 that her office was scrambling to mail out hundreds of presidential primary ballots after a “data entry error” meant many overseas and military voters never received one.

Military and overseas voters, who can choose either a mail or email ballot, were supposed to receive their ballots for the March 3 presidential primary by Jan. 18, but 985 voters who requested a mail ballot never got one, according to a news release.

Military and overseas voters are known as UOCAVA voters for the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act.

Lopez said her office became aware of the error on Jan. 29 when they were contacted by UOCAVA email voters who were confused when they received both an email and mail ballot.

Lopez said a staffer inadvertently mislabeled the UOCAVA ballot lists, inadvertently sending the same list to both the email and mail vendors, meaning the 1,998 UOCAVA voters who requested an email ballot got both, and the mail ballot voters got neither.

Nobody cross-checked the staffer's work before it was sent to the vendors, Lopez said, saying her office will change its protocols to ensure voter lists are verified before they're sent out.

Of the affected voters, 381 were unaffiliated, 340 are Democrats and 264 are Republicans. About half are military members and their families.

Lopez said upon learning of the error, her staff immediately notified the Colorado Secretary of State's Office, and began working to send out mail ballots.

All the replacement ballots were scheduled to be sent out by the end of Jan. 31, Lopez said.

The error means the office did not meet the Secretary of State's deadline of 45 days before the election for sending out ballots, Lopez said. The office will now be required to submit a compliance plan and regular status updates to the state for the June primary and November general election.

“Mistakes were made,” Lopez said. “I certainly don't want us to make any errors, but it happens. It's a learning process. I have full confidence in my staff that we'll look at every error that happens in every election and look over our processes and make sure that we do better each time.”

Lopez previously vowed to improve her office's election processes in November, after drawing criticism for what many called slow vote counts in the midterm election and a fumbled answer to a reporter's question about the fairness of the vote-counting process. Lopez was also criticized by a county ethics board in December for what it called sloppy adherence to county travel reimbursement policies.

Lopez said she has taken steps to improve the office, citing the recent hiring of former Denver Clerk and Recorder candidate Peg Perl as the county's new elections director.

“She's been on board about a week,” Lopez said. “Just long enough to get stressed out about this.”

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