El Paso County leads state in number of rejected primary ballots


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Colorado's first semi-open primary election was confusing for unaffiliated voters — many of whom didn't get the memo that they could only turn in one ballot — but it wasn't quite as confusing as some had feared.

"Statewide, 6,914 ballots were rejected because unaffiliated voters — who received both a Republican and a Democratic ballot in the mail — mistakenly returned both, according to the Secretary of State's office. That's a rejection rate of 2.4 percent."

El Paso County voters didn't do quite as well, according to numbers provided by Kristi Alfonso, spokesperson for the Clerk and Recorder's Office. With 1,516 ballots disqualified, the county had the highest rejection rate in the state, barring a few sparsely populated rural counties: 4.8 percent.

But that's still better than what some opponents of Proposition 108, which allowed unaffiliated voters to have a say in primaries, had anticipated. One argument against the proposition, cited by the Legislative Council of the Colorado General Assembly in its 2016 State Ballot Information Booklet, was that 7 percent of ballots likely would be rejected due to unaffiliated voters returning both ballots.

In a July 6 statement, Secretary of State Wayne Williams said he was "incredibly proud" of efforts by county workers and media organizations that helped educate unaffiliated voters about the right way to vote.

"Our office will be working with the clerks to improve the percentage in our next primary election, in 2020," he added.

This year, a record-breaking 141,732 ballots were cast in El Paso County, including 34,027 by unaffiliated voters, 34,664 by Democrats and 73,034 by Republicans. That amounts to a turnout rate of over 36 percent. In the 2016 primary, only 86,000 voters returned ballots, Alfonso said in an email.

Around 58 percent of unaffiliated county residents returned Republican ballots, while 42 percent returned Democratic ballots.

Feeling competitive? Here's a look at the rejection rates for people voting more than once in the state's 10 largest counties:

El Paso County: 4.8 percent (1,611 ballots rejected)
City and County of Denver: 2.6 percent (942 rejected)
Arapahoe County: 2.7 percent (802 rejected)
Jefferson County: 1.9 percent (744 rejected)
Adams County: 0.4 percent (79 rejected)
Larimer County: 1.7 percent (365 rejected)
Boulder County: 0.9 percent (203 rejected)
Douglas County: 1.4 percent (247 rejected)
Weld County: 2.7 percent (304 rejected)
Pueblo County: 2.0 percent (116 rejected)

And here's a recap of the election results: Incumbent Rep. Doug Lamborn won the District 5 Republican primary with 52 percent of the vote; Jared Polis won the Democratic governor's primary with 39 percent of the county vote and 44 percent of the statewide vote; Walker Stapleton took the Republican nomination for governor with nearly 48 percent of the county and statewide vote; Marc Snyder won the state's District 18 Democratic primary with 55 percent of the vote; and Sheriff Bill Elder won the Republican primary with 58 percent. In the biggest nail-biter, Democratic attorney general candidate Phil Weiser lost to Joe Salazar by a margin of 5.4 percent in El Paso County, but won the statewide race by less than 1 percent.

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