Deadline to request absentee ballots passes, confusingly
Post Independent Staff
Voters who thought they had until today to ask to have absentee ballots mailed to them for the district attorney recall election have another think coming.
They’ll either have to make a stop in Glenwood Springs to get the ballots by the end of this week, or vote at the polls on Dec. 13.
Garfield County Clerk Mildred Alsdorf on Monday said the deadline to request to have her office mail absentee ballots to voters was Friday. That’s different from a deadline of today that initially had been set by her office, but later was changed to comply with a new state law.
Alsdorf said her office sent out corrected information after the change. However, the original date continued to be publicized in venues that included an article in Saturday’s Post Independent, and apparently even in Alsdorf’s own satellite clerk office in Rifle.
The confusion concerned at least one voter, Valerie Simmons, of Battlement Mesa.
“There’s just a lot of misinformation out there,” she said.
She said information she received at both the public library in Parachute and from the Rifle clerk’s office indicated she had more time than what turned out to be the case to request mailing of her ballot.
The change in the deadline resulted from a change in state law, Alsdorf said. Previously, the law dictated that the deadline to request absentee ballots to be mailed was the Tuesday before an election. Alsdorf based initial information sent to the media and local libraries on that requirement.
However, Alsdorf later learned that the state now requires that the deadline be two Fridays ahead of an election. Alsdorf said the change helps ensure that mailed ballots are received by voters in time for the election.
Simmons said she doesn’t understand why an informational postcard from Alsdorf on the recall election, which included a reference to last Friday’s deadline, arrived at her home on Thursday.
“I thought that was cutting it pretty darn short,” she said.
Alsdorf said she’s had a lot of others make the same complaint. She had hoped to get the postcards out last Monday, but they weren’t able to be mailed until Wednesday. At that point, it would have been better to leave out the reference to the Dec. 2 deadline, but the postcards already had been printed, she said.
Alsdorf’s office has been scrambling to prepare for the recall election. She wasn’t able to have ballots printed until after Martin Beeson officially secured a spot on the ballot Nov. 18 as a challenger to DA Colleen Truden.
“This whole thing, the short schedule, has really thrown a crimp in everything,” she said.
But Simmons doesn’t see how that should affect the information Alsdorf put out about election-related deadlines.
“They knew the election was going to be Dec. 13. They’ve known that for over a month,” she said.
Alsdorf said voters also had about a month to request mailed absentee ballots, whether the deadline was today or last Friday.
Simmons said she’s concerned about the deadline confusion because it’s not convenient for a lot of voters to go to polling places, so they may want to use absentee ballots instead.
Alsdorf said she had expected more absentee ballots to be requested than has been the case. Her office probably has sent out about 1,200 of them, half of which were requested over the last few days before the deadline.
She has seen as many as 10,000 people vote by absentee ballot in past elections. Then again, Alsdorf said she has no idea what kind of overall voter turnout to expect in the recall election, as compared to regular elections.
It’s not too late to vote by absentee ballot. People still wanting to do so must stop in the county clerk office at the county courthouse, 109 Eighth St., Suite 200, Glenwood Springs, by Friday. Alsdorf said her Rifle office is not set up to issue absentee ballots.
Voters may download the ballot request form at http://www.garfield-county.com (click on “News”), which will save them time waiting in line to fill out the form at the clerk’s office, Alsdorf said. They may fill out their absentee ballots immediately or return them by election day to the Rifle or Glenwood clerk offices, Alsdorf said.
Those who request an absentee ballot but then want to vote at a polling place will not have their vote counted on election day. Instead, they will vote provisionally, with their ballots being counted only after it is ensured they didn’t already turn in an absentee ballot.
Also, absentee ballots that aren’t signed will be counted only if the clerk’s office has been able to contact voters and have them correct the omission.
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