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October 11, 2006 07:48 PM UTC

Denver Absentee Ballot printed wrong

  • by: Dan Willis

There is a major error with the printing of the absentee ballots in Denver. For Referendum F, the Yes and No are in reversed places from where they are supposed to be. This a potentionally huge problem because of the results on that question are anywhere near close, the losing side can sue saying the ballot was flawed. I know I nearly voted wrong on the question because I knew how I was voting and just going through and marking my “yesses” and “nos” and almost marked the wrong one becasue the turn around of the places on the ballot.

I have been working since I opened my ballot yesterday evening to find out what caused the error and how wide spread is it.

I called both elected Commissioners (and Commissioner candidate Karen Morrissey) as soon as I saw it, and have heard back so far from Sandy Adams who is also pursuing this issue. She called the appointed Commission member and he is looking into it as well.

Here’s what I have so far:

It is limited to Denver County. I have checked with other counties that use Sequoia for their absentee ballots and they do not have this problem.

The Election Commission staff is saying that Sequoia made the printing error. But this is an awfully strange error to make at that point if the proofs that they were printing from were correct.

What I don’t know yet but am still working on:
Did the Commission proof of the ballot have the error on it?

Did the Secretary of State certify the ballot with the error on it?

What technique does the printer (probably a subcontrator used by Sequoia) use to put the ballot together? Could the error have happened there?

Another fascinating wrinkle in the paper ballot vs. machine debate.


6 thoughts on “Denver Absentee Ballot printed wrong

  1. Dan, the problems with the Denver absentee ballot go beyond the transposition of “yes” and “no” on Ref F — although that is a serious problem. The DEC can’t blame the printer if they signed off on the proof.

    More about the ballot’s design flaws (with a handy graphic illustration) at


    Denver needs two experienced, competent people to come forward to run for Election Commissioner in May. We need commissioners who can bring gravitas and respect to the position — someone like Stephanie Foote or Barbara Miller, or any of the other fine people who served on the election governance task force. Or Jerry Kopel. Or Barry Hirschfeld. Someone who is willing to take on high-profile leadership of the DEC as a pure public service rather than a political stepping stone or part-time job offering extra income. The DEC is broken and the only way to fix it is by electing strong, credible commissioners.

    1. Karen Morrissey has already announced her candidacy for the Denver Election Commission. Her decision to run has been largely based on the continuing missteps being made. The ballot error is just the lastest example. I have known Karen for many years and have also worked with her as an election judge (we were assigned the precinct back when we had precincts). It would be in her character to have insisted on looking over the proofs of the ballots herself before they were sent off.

      She understands that the Commissioners are the elected folk who are ultimately responsible and have to take the initiative to ACTIVELY oversee the elections, not just leave it to hired staff. After all it is the elected Comissioners who have to explain “what happened?” to the public. Karen is well-aware that doing it right to begin with means a lot less explaining later.

      At this point I have not heard of any other names being mentioned as potential candidates except that Sandy Adams is expected to run for re-election.

    2. I don’t think the Ominous Black Line (OBL) is gong to be a real issue. In the past we have often had ballots that were printed on front and back and they had these same lines and the optical scanners at the DEC have never read them through the paper before. The OBL actually serve a purpose with the scanners. They tell the scanner/computer where one race stops and the next one begins. If they had been reading through the paper all this time, it would have thrown the election off by so much the problem would have been immediately known.

  2. that the Sec. of State was probably too busy to inspect and certify that ballot because she was too preoccupied emergency rule-making (and in so doing, promulgating illegal rules), or meeting with Rob Fairbanks and other Republican operatives with whom she was NOT coordinating!

  3. Sequoia has taken responsibility for the Ref. F “No-Yes” misprint. The proof sent by the DEC was correct and Sequoia printed it wrong. Since I don’t know the process Sequoia uses to print the ballots, I can’t even begin to speculate how they made this goof.

    The DEC is now getting together with the Sec. of State’s office on how best to handle this problem. There should be a statement soon (hopefully tomorrow).

    1. There should have been a double-check in place. When the ballots were printed, a “live” copy should have been sent to the DEC for another proofread BEFORE any ballots were mailed. This would have allowed the error to have been caught and corrected right away.

      If the DEC does not come up with this policy change on their own, I intend to bring it up at their next meeting (Oct 24th, 5:30 pm at 303 W. Colfax, 1st Floor and open to the public).

      Karen Morrissey
      Candidate for Denver Election Commission

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