Briefline

Colorado secretary of state appoints election observer in Pueblo County after ballot errors

By: - June 21, 2022 6:22 pm

The Pueblo County Courthouse at 215 W 10th St., pictured on April 14, 2022. (Sara Wilson/Colorado Newsline)

Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold appointed an election observer in Pueblo County for the 2022 primary election after incorrect ballots were sent to some voters in recent days.

“Secretary of State Griswold informed Clerk Ortiz last week that she would be exercising supervisory authority in sending an observer to Pueblo for the remainder of the 2022 primary election. The Department of State is working with Clerk Ortiz’s office to ensure that Pueblo county voters have safe, secure and accessible elections,” a statement from the office said.

The clerk in Pueblo County is Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz. The observer will watch the county’s process and report back to Griswold’s office.

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Ortiz, a Democrat, rejected a push earlier on Tuesday from the Colorado Republican Party for Griswold, also a Democrat, to appoint a supervisor in Pueblo County. In an interview with Colorado Newsline on Tuesday about the issue, Ortiz did not disclose that he already knew an observer would be coming to his office.

“I learned on Friday after 5 p.m. and informed the election department and the watchers as soon as I could on Monday,” Ortiz later wrote in a text message to Colorado Newsline.

A series of human and vendor errors led to voters receiving incorrect ballots in Pueblo County. The elections department first noticed that a county commissioner race was omitted on the Democratic primary ballot and issued a reprint of about 70,000 ballots. When the vendor completed that reprint, however, they still printed and sent out about 1,600 ballots without the race. Those voters were then informed of the error by the clerk’s office and issued correct ballots.

Additionally, about 15 voters in one neighborhood received ballots that featured the wrong state House race. Ortiz said that mistake was due to human coding error while updating addresses after redistricting. Those voters were also informed of the error and issued the correct ballot.

Colorado GOP chair Kristi Burton Brown called on Griswold Tuesday to appoint a supervisor to Pueblo County, similar to the supervisor appointed in Elbert County, where Clerk Dallas Schroeder made copies of election system computers and intentionally handed them over to unauthorized people. That supervisor has defined duties through an election order to observe the county’s activities and report incidents of noncompliance to Griswold’s office due to ongoing security risk.

In Pueblo County, there was not an alleged security breach but rather an error in ballot creation and geocoding. Ortiz is cooperating with Griswold’s office.

When state Sen. Nick Hinrichsen, a Pueblo Democrat, learned about the ballots with the wrong House race, he reached out to Michael Whitehorn, the chief of staff in the Secretary of State’s office.

“Our office is aware of the issue with the apartment building and the misplaced HDs and are working with Bo and his team to resolve it asap. We have staff on the ground today and additionally have appointed an observer who should start tomorrow,” Whitehorn wrote in a Monday email to Hinrichsen, obtained by Colorado Newsline.

Hinrichsen responded that he expected the local Republican party to call for an appointed supervisor. He wrote that he agreed with that position.

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Sara Wilson
Sara Wilson

Sara Wilson covers state government, Colorado's congressional delegation, energy and other stories for Newsline. She formerly was a reporter for The Pueblo Chieftain, where she covered politics and government in southern Colorado. Wilson earned a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and as a student she reported on Congress and other federal beats in Washington, D.C.

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