This midterm election has been “one for the books” in a myriad of ways, leaving voters on edge and distrustful of any event that seems out of the ordinary. As a result, it was no surprise that some Bent County residents were suspicious that something foul was afoot when they did not receive their ballots despite ballots being delivered to other residents in other parts of the county at least a week prior. Those suspicions seemed to be confirmed when a similar problem was reported in Adams County. In a sign of the times that should come as no surprise, there were questions raised on social media about voter fraud or possible partisanship being behind the delay while others speculated if this is what interference from outside forces might look like.
After some investigation, it turned out that the source of the problems could all be traced back to that most common problem of all: human error.
The Colorado Secretary of State’s office reported last week that Bent County is re-issuing 500 of its 2500 ballots after the original ballots were never delivered and the U.S. Post Office has been unable to locate them. The ballots were expected to arrive last Friday where they will be processed by the local post office instead of being shipped to the Denver facility first.
In Adams County, the 5th most populated county in the state, sixty-one thousand ballots went missing for a week, including the ballot of the Adams County Clerk and Recorder.
According to statements from Stan Martin, Adams County Clerk and Recorder, 15 XPO trucks carrying ballots printed by K&H Printing in Seattle arrived at the USPS facility in Denver on October 15. Four of those trucks contained ballots for Adams County. However, when processing receipt of the ballots, a USPS employee declined to receive one of the truckloads, citing problems with payment documentation.
Enter problem number one: supposedly, USPS employees are not to reject receipt of ballots (although whether that rule applies to blank ballots or completed ballots only seems to be in question).
Enter problem number two: if the delivery is rejected for some reason, the USPS employee is to contact that appropriate county clerk and recorder (in this case, that would be Adams County) and inform him of the rejection of the delivery. That call was not made.
Enter problem number three: XPO protocol states that, if a delivery is rejected, the driver is to inform his supervisor. In this case, the XPO driver didn’t do that. He simply drove his truck to the secured XPO facility in Henderson and left it there without letting his supervisor know of the situation.
Eventually, the ballots were found, returned to the USPS and mailed with delivery following in a few days. Since then, this incident has led to a rather heated exchange of finger pointing with USPS state officials planning to request that the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Office of Inspector General conduct an investigation.
Meanwhile, Martin took extra steps to assure voters that the delay in delivering ballots was strictly a non-partisan goof up with the following numbers of registered voters being impacted: Democrats - 19,000, Republicans - 17,000, Unaffiliated - 24,000 and Minor - 1,000.
Other mistakes of a more minor nature were reported throughout the state.
In Weld County, 827 voters had to receive new ballots when it was discovered that the ink had run out while printing the ones they received.
In Gunnison County, the clerk needed to clarify directions about which voters needed to include copies of their IDs when returning ballots.
In Clear Creek, voters were wondering where their sleeves were, seemingly unaware that sleeves are no longer legally required.
Due to an error in a news story by 9 News, all of Gilpin County voters were instructed to return copies of their IDs with their ballots even though that wasn’t necessary in the vast majority of cases.
Even with what may seem like a rather extensive “Oops” list of events, security experts say that Colorado remains one of the most reliable states in the country to cast a ballot because of that most dependable “technology” of all: a piece of paper and a pen.
Simply put: hackers can’t hack a paper ballot.
That means that only one challenge remains: getting voters to actually vote.