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November 04, 2011 08:30 PM UTC

When Triple The Standard Isn't Enough

  • by: Colorado Pols

We’re kind of surprised by what seems to be a pushback attempt on the principal story from this week’s election in Pueblo County. On Election Day, Pueblo County Clerk Gilbert Ortiz put out a statement showing that, based on preliminary returns as of the night before, “inactive–failed to vote” voters who received ballots in the mail were returning their ballots at a higher rate than the Secretary of State’s often-quoted 3% statewide average. According to Ortiz’s release on Tuesday afternoon, some 2,640 “inactive” voters had returned their ballots.

It turns out, as the Colorado Independent’s John Tomasic reports:

“A press release issued October 31 by this office contained a mistake in the reporting of the Inactive Failed to Vote tabulations,” Ortiz wrote in a release. “The correct number of IFTV was 1791, which is 10.9 percent turnout, and still above the statewide average.”

…Regardless of the mistake in the Pueblo Clerk’s office, tallies from the secretary of state’s office demonstrate that inactive voters played a major role in this week’s election, accounting for roughly 5.5 percent of the total votes cast in the state.

“I can say that mailing ballots to inactive voters is the right thing for Pueblo County,” Ortiz said. “We’re used to it here. People expect their ballots and I want to keep that consistent.”

So obviously, there’s a lesson here that you should always double and triple-check all of your math before you send out a press release. But the correct result is still more than three times the 2009 estimate of ballots returned by these voters of 3%–and that’s the number Secretary of State Scott Gessler used to justify his lawsuit to prevent delivery of these ballots, isn’t it?

We wouldn’t be quite so animated about this, but today’s story in the Pueblo Chieftain reads like an over-the-top New York Post exposé on a embezzling councilman. They make it sound like Ortiz totally failed because of this small error, when in fact his office dramatically outperformed the benchmarks that were used to criticize his decision to send the ballots.

Richard Coolidge, a spokesman for Gessler, said the state office wouldn’t have double-checked the Pueblo County voting claims Wednesday except that Ortiz was touting an unusually high response…

Ortiz denied that he inflated the number of ballots from inactive voters for political reasons.

…[W]hen Gessler and Ortiz argue over voter numbers, they are looking at the same state database…[t]hat’s why Gessler was so quick to call Ortiz on his inflated vote totals for inactive voters.

The problem for the author, Peter Roper, is that a 10% response rate from “inactive” voters is “an unusually high response.” But you’d never get that from reading Roper’s story! All he wants to talk about is Ortiz’s “inflated” initial estimate based on unofficial pre-election counts. It’s a classic case of ignoring the real story to focus on what doesn’t matter.

We noted the Pueblo Chieftain’s openly hostile editorial a couple of weeks ago, pretty much blaming “inactive” voters for their status like Marie Antoinette blamed the French peasantry for being hungry. So, you know, maybe this meanspirited hit piece from Roper makes a kind of editorial sense. But it’s not often we see the story gotten this far off track without it being intentional, and we don’t think that’s how the record should go down for Clerk Ortiz.  


16 thoughts on “When Triple The Standard Isn’t Enough

  1. Loving it.

    Ortiz was trying to score some extra points against Secretary of State Scott Gessler, with whom he fought with over mailing ballots to inactive voters. A law written by Democrats in the Legislature in 2010 had stated that in all-mail elections clerks “shall mail [a ballot] to each active registered elector,” after intense lobbying by County Clerk and Recorders. They had asked them to allow the Clerks to not incur the cost to mail inactive voters ballots automatically, a subset of voters who only return them in the single digits. At a time of budget cuts, the Clerks were looking for any way to save money, especially on costs that had such a low rate of return.

    Ortiz had attempted to sue Secretary of State Scott Gessler over the right to mail inactive voters, despite it not being authorized in the election law passed by Democrats in 2010, and was lionized by the left for attacking their new favorite punching bag. While Ortiz was only a bit player looking for attention in a lawsuit driven by left wing groups such as Common Cause, he had plenty of hot air blown up his skirt by the folks over at Colorado Pols and even MSNBC’s lower rated version of Bill O’Reilly, Rachel Maddow.

    All the attention went to Ortiz’s head, causing him to blast out a press release on election night (falsely) bragging that 28% of inactive voters returned ballots. It was completely not true — not even close. The icing on the cake for conservatives was that it was Scott Gessler’s office that caught Ortiz using faux facts….

        1. of inactive FTV actually vote, but the real number is double that?

          I’d rather be Ortiz with the wrong number, but correct conclusion, than Gessler with neither the correct number nor correct conclusion. But I guess if you think Gessler is never wrong it doesn’t matter what the numbers are.

          1. That’s the percentage that voted in 2009.

            I commend Democrats for making a big stink about nothing and, as a result, maybe raising awareness among marginal voters to do something.


            I apologize. I couldn’t help it.

            1. If I had a nickle for every good point of mine you can’t answer, I could retire. Oh well, guess I’ll have to settle for the pride of knowing I can show you up without effort.

        2. I wouldn’t be making a big deal out of it. Breaking news is always full of errors, and the whole truth comes out later. Remember when they reported that a whole squadron of terrorists was attacking Columbine?

          Nice, but ultimately failed, attempt to spin this into some kind of scandal.

    1. coloradopeakpolitics says:

      a lawsuit driven by left wing groups such as Common Cause

      The lawsuit was driven by Gessler–he is the one filing it. Against Debra Johnson, Denver City and County Clerk. Common Cause did ask to intervene, and may be allowed to do so when it goes to trial, but is not “driving” this.

      Arapa, you are citing propaganda and ideology, not facts.

  2. In Pueblo County, we are used to this crap. When you have a liberal town with a newspaper to the right of Atilla the Hun, it’s bound to happen. The telling point is that they printed the “good” picture of Bo instead of the one with the 5 o’clock shadow.

  3. Roper wrote in the article:

    Anytime there is a dispute over tallying votes, it always raises suspicions about possible voter fraud.

    But there was no dispute “over tallying votes”! There was never a question of the accuracy of the vote count–it was simply over who had voted, and not over the legitimacy of any vote. Introducing “voter fraud” is totally misleading, non-applicable, and does a great disservice to the public.

    Voter fraud is extremely rare in Colorado as well as the rest of the nation. To even raise the issue when there was no implication of it feeds the false impression that one side of the political spectrum wants the public to believe, contrary to the evidence. It is unfortunate that Mr. Roper fed that beast with his choice of words in this article.

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