Briefline

Pueblo clerk resists GOP call for election supervisor after ballot errors

By: - June 21, 2022 4:07 pm

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

Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz is rejecting calls from the state Republican party for an election supervisor to oversee his work during the June 28 primary election, insisting that any ballot errors in the county are now corrected.

One of the errors involved a county commissioner race, which was incorrectly omitted from tens of thousands of ballots. Another occurred when more than a dozen voters received ballots for the wrong state House district.

On Tuesday, Kristi Burton Brown, chair of the Colorado Republican Party, called on the Democratic secretary of state to appoint an election supervisor to oversee the Democratic county clerk.

“Today, we are calling on Jena Griswold to do in Pueblo County what she has chosen to do in counties run by Republican Clerks — appoint an election supervisor to oversee Democrat Clerk Bo Ortiz,” Burton Brown said in a statement. “Some Pueblo County voters have now received FOUR different versions of their ballots. These mistakes have risen to a level that can only negatively impact the trust that voters have in Colorado’s election system.”

“The fact that many Pueblo County voters have received several different ballots has caused confusion, will ensure that mistakes are made, and puts both local and statewide campaigns in a difficult spot,” the statement continued.

Secretary of State Jena Griswold appointed an election supervisor in Elbert County, where Clerk Dallas Schroeder, a Republican, was under investigation for making copies of his county’s election computer system and giving it to two unauthorized people. That created security concerns, Griswold argued. Griswold’s efforts to protect elections in Mesa County resulted in a court naming a new designated election official to replace Clerk Tina Peters, a Republican, in the county’s 2022 elections.

The issues in Pueblo county are not security-related, but have to do with mistakes in the races included on some ballots. In total, approximately 1.5% of the ballots mailed out were wrong.

All of the reported ballot errors in Pueblo County are now corrected, according to Ortiz.

“The comments released by Colorado GOP Chairwomen Kristi Burton Brown are factually untrue, politically motivated and an attempt to distract from the alleged criminal acts committed by other Colorado County Clerks,” a Tuesday afternoon statement from the clerk’s office said. “These clerks were replaced in their duties for violating state law, which Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder Gilbert ‘Bo’ Ortiz has not done.”

“The statement also indicates that ‘many’ voters have been impacted by a printing error. That figure stands at less than one percent of Pueblo County voters. Each of these voters has been issued a replacement ballot and have been reminded of the opportunity to vote the correct ballot,” Ortiz’s statement said. “Because this vendor printing error impacted only the County Commissioner race, the Democratic voters in Pueblo County are the only voters affected. The Republican County Commissioner race is uncontested and thusly not impacted.”

Most of the issues had to do with the omission of one of the county commissioner races on the Democratic ballot. At first, it seemed the error only affected about 250 ballots for overseas and military voters, as reported by KRDO, but it ended up affecting approximately 70,000 total ballots. The county ate the cost to reprint those ballots, an estimated $12,000 to $14,000, as reported by the Pueblo Chieftain.

There’s bound to be small mistakes in there. We try to be perfect. That’s always our goal, is perfection. But we are human and we make errors.

– Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert 'Bo' Ortiz

Ortiz told county commissioners that the error was made by an elections department staff member who only put the commissioner race on ballots for voters who lived in the specific district, the Chieftain reported. All county residents, however, are eligible to vote in that race.

The incorrect ballots were reprinted by the county’s vendor, but about 1,600 wrong ballots were still sent out to voters, according to a June 17 release from the county. Those voters were then sent corrected replacement ballots.

Additionally, approximately 15 voters first received ballots that put them in the wrong state House district, as first reported by KRDO.

Pueblo resident Elvis Martinez said he received an incorrect ballot on June 11 that put him in House District 62, even though he lives in House District 46. Martinez said that because he paid attention to recent redistricting, he knew this was wrong. He called the elections department and informed them of the error and then received a correct ballot on June 17.

“I wasn’t trying to be a smart aleck with it, but not everyone is as informed as I am,” Martinez told Colorado Newsline.

Ortiz said the office called every affected voter and issued new ballots.

He blamed the House district error on an issue that occurred when staff coded individual addresses in accordance with redistricting.

“Our GIS department accidentally geocoded those positions wrong on the map and it translated into 15 ballots going out incorrect,” he told Colorado Newsline.

“This issue won’t happen again. Now, it might happen in another election because of the redistricting that happened and all the geocoding that happened. There’s bound to be small mistakes in there. We try to be perfect. That’s always our goal, is perfection. But we are human and we make errors,” he said.

The Pueblo County Elections Department encourages voters to make sure the county commissioner race is included on their ballot and to go to the office to be issued a new ballot.

The secretary of state’s office did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

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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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