PUEBLO, Colo. — Wednesday is the deadline in Colorado for all overseas and military ballots to be received and for any signature discrepancies on ballots to be fixed. Correcting a ballot is called curing a ballot, and with close races in the state, those votes really matter.
In Pueblo County, some campaigns are annoying their constituents by aggressively pursuing voters who need to cure their ballot. Tactics include calling, texting, reaching out to relatives, and in a few instances, showing up at voter's homes.
On Tuesday, Pueblo County Clerk & Recorder Gilbert Ortiz tweeted about a young voter who was particularly frustrated.
I get these ballots waiting to be cured are important. Aggressively pursuing Voters, being rude, and calling relatives. Voters have the right to cure their ballot; they also have the right to not cure. One young voter told me she will never vote again. @annalynnfrey @johnmrod— Gilbert Ortiz (@Bochefus) November 15, 2022
Ortiz said his office has received similar complaints from dozens of Pueblo County residents. Campaigns locate the names of the voters who need to cure their ballots through a list posted on the Pueblo County Clerk & Recorder's website.
“We're getting a lot of people who are angry that we put this out publicly in the first place, your vote statistics," Ortiz said over Zoom. “And those things are open record. We have to release those to the campaigns, and we figured the best way to do that was to put it on our website.”
Ortiz said there were 725 Pueblo voters who needed to fix signature discrepancies. At last check, he said around 300 ballots still needed to be cured.
“People's interest in the curable ballots, they're only interested in that when there's a close race like this one. A lot of times, there's nobody calling these people, and so they're not used to it. They're not used to the attention that they're getting, just like my elections department is not used to the attention they're getting," said Ortiz. “My post was a warning out there to campaigns, letting them know that we're getting a lot of complaints.”
Denver7 spoke with one Pueblo resident who wanted to remain anonymous after her 18-year-old son had to cure his ballot. Her son was alerted by the clerk and recorder's office of the signature discrepancy, and that he would need to cure his ballot. The next day, his father received a call from a Washington, D.C. phone number, and the caller asked for his son.
"They identified themselves as a volunteer, and they said that they were calling about the problem with his ballot," his mother told Denver7. “He knew that he needed to cure it because he'd gotten the letter in the mail the day before. They said, 'Well, you can just cure it on the phone...' They asked him who he voted for in the Boebert Frisch race. And when he told them, he voted for Fisch, they hung up the phone.”
After the call, the family did not believe the ballot had actually been cured. They cured it through the Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder's Office to ensure his vote counted.
“I don't know whether it was to find out who he voted for, or to confuse him just enough. Being a new voter, his first time voting, that maybe he wouldn't go through the process and actually fix it," his mom said. “If we weren't here, and he was by himself trying to figure out how to cure it, would he have known that he hadn't cured it?"
She went on to say the Republican candidate for treasurer in Pueblo County knocked on their door, as well. According to the family, the candidate asked who their son voted for after he had cured his ballot.
“He's annoyed. It's annoying to have to answer the door to your house and explain to somebody standing on your doorstep, asking you to your face, 'Did you vote for me?' It's uncomfortable. It's a little strange," she said. “That certainly left a really bad taste in his mouth to track him down at home to specifically ask.”
The fear is that certain groups or areas of Colorado may be discouraged from voting in future elections.
“They might just say, 'You know what, it's not worth that hassle. I've been getting phone calls, people are showing up on my doorstep, they want to know who I voted for. It's none of their business. I'm just not going to do it again for a while because it's not worth the hassle,'" said the Pueblo resident. “Kids like my kid, it's going to make them more strong in their opinions on who they do want to vote for.”
Ortiz is hoping Pueblo County will be finished counting ballots by Thursday afternoon. A statewide audit of the election results is the next step.