Larimer County voters cast 124,857 ballots â€“â€“ mail-in, early voting and Election Day combined â€“â€“ during the 2010 midterm elections. But at the polls in the Lory Student Center, some voters were told ballots had run out.
The shortage only affected students whose voter registration was in question or those voting with â€œprovisional ballots.â€
Voters without identification or a place in the countyâ€™s poll books are issued â€œprovisional ballots,â€ which are counted only when the voting eligibility of an individual casting the ballot is verified.
â€œ(They) ran short due to a large number of voters showing up unprepared or having something wrong with their registration,â€ said Scott Doyle, Larimer County clerk and recorder.
Larimer County typically orders ballots based on previous election numbers and history. This year, the amount of voters who showed up with questions about their voting eligibility exceeded that of the 2008 election.
Ballots may have also run out because of unorganized polling centers, Doyle said. At various locations, those in charge of answering votersâ€™ questions are reported to have unnecessarily referred people to the provisional ballot table rather than election judges, who have the ability to review registration and provide regular ballots.
Voters at the center were told to return later to cast their votes or go to the nearby Fort Collins Hilton on Prospect Road.
The center received more provisional ballots â€œ15 to 20 minutesâ€ later, after â€œthe ballots arrived from my office,â€ Doyle said.
Larimer County is not the only municipality to have experienced a shortage of provisional ballots this election season. Arapahoe, Teller and Montrose counties also saw a shortage of necessary documents.
Pat Waak, chair of the Colorado Democratic Party, launched a legal challenge in the Arapahoe court system on election night, claiming that Democrats are the ones largely punished by a lack of provisional ballots.
In response to the court order, Colorado Secretary of State Bernie Buescher issued an order to photocopy necessary documents. Buescher later released a statement to the press saying, â€œProfessionals at the county clerks offices throughout the state quickly remedied the deficiency and accommodated voters in need of provisional ballots.â€
â€œThe vast majority of voters arriving at the polls will not be affected,â€ he said in the written statement.
About 3,000 provisional ballots were issued in Larimer County and will be reviewed by an elections panel to determine whether or not they should be counted.
Until candidates are sworn in â€“â€“ traditionally in January â€“â€“ and sometimes after, provisional ballots can swing what voters thought was final. This means that people can be taken out of office if these ballots count the name of the opposing candidate winner.
â€œI apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused, and we are looking at this instance in future planning,â€ Doyle said.
Staff writer Andrew Carrera can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.