Due to an error at Town Hall last week more than 100 ballots for Silverton’s April 3 town election were not mailed out as scheduled. It was later discovered that they had been misplaced in the Town Hall safe, according to Town Clerk Brian Carlson.
In the meantime, Carlson said the issue had been “easily resolved” with a second mailing of replacement ballots on Tuesday, March 20.
Carlson said that by Friday afternoon, March 16, “it had come to my attention that numerous voters had not received their mailed ballots.”
He said the lost ballots fell into two categories: Those with last names beginning with A through Da, and all permanent mail-in voters.
It added up to a total of 107 ballots missing or mailed to the wrong address.
Since then, Carlson said 27 voters have picked up replacement ballots at Town Hall, and four made re-send requests by phone. Carlson said he mailed out another 76 ballots on Tuesday.
“All ballots are numbered, and a signature is required on the ballot-return envelope,” Carlson said. He said ballots associated with last names A through Da were simply missing — until late Wednesday afternoon when found in the Town Hall safe.
Here is the text of a letter issued by Carlson on Thursday afternoon, March 22:
Dear Silverton Voter:
Earlier this week I had issued a statement regarding ballots which I believed were missing. I am pleased and relieved to report that I found these ballots late yesterday (Wednesday). They were in the Town Hall safe, never mailed, and apparently undetected by staff for several days. An occurrence such as this leads to doubt and finger-pointing. I ask your indulgence in reading through this entire correspondence, as I wish to clear the air to the best of my ability.
Post Office Staff
I truly regret that my correspondence earlier this week was not more carefully worded. I believe that I misrepresented, unintentionally, the role of the post office, and this has led to a headline in today’s newspaper that implies that post office staff is at fault. Donna and Becky have only ever offered courteous, competent help as postal employees, and this mailing was no exception. Absolutely no blame rests with the post office; they promptly mailed every mail-ballot package that they received from Town Hall staff.
San Juan County Staff
Again, I believe that I misrepresented the role of County Clerk staff in my earlier correspondence. Though there was a problem with the mailing labels for a few (not all) permanent-mail-in-voters, this amounted to only eight voters. By failing to mention that quantity, I believe that this minor issue may have been understandably exaggerated in the minds of Silverton voters. This issue has since been resolved.
I mistakenly implied to the Editor that the mail-ballot packages were mailed, then missing. This is obviously not correct and also not intentional. I think that the reporting is understandable under the circumstances, and I take full responsibility for the way in which I presented facts to Mr. Esper.
Please be assured that every eligible voter has been mailed ONE ballot-package to the address of record, per Secretary of State voter registration list (unless they have made other delivery arrangements with me via “absentee ballot request”). Every ballot is numbered, and each numbered ballot is logged, corresponding to a specific recipient. Each returned ballot envelope contains an affidavit, which is signed by the voter. All of these identifiers must be confirmed by myself and election judges in order for the ballot to be counted.
Ballots returned in-person to Town Hall are dropped in a locked ballot box by the voter, and are logged by staff. I keep the only keys to this ballot box, which is locked in the Town Hall safe each night. Ballots returned by mail are retrieved by TWO staff members (always myself and one other), and quantities received are logged and initialed. I keep all Town Hall post-office box keys with me at all times until after April 3rd.
Vote counting will likely be done only on Tuesday, April 3rd, though I am permitted to begin counting prior to that date. Counting will be conducted by Election Judges (3), and I will be present at all times to oversee the process.
Finally, I believe that a mail-ballot election is appropriate in Silverton, recent history notwithstanding. A mail-ballot election increases voter turnout, particularly in a town with so many seasonal residents that holds its elections in muddy April. Perhaps the most important benefit is that a mail-ballot election enables staff and Judges to avoid the hazardous practice of vote-tallying with tired bodies and minds at the end of an eighteen-hour day. My Election Judges will arrive Tuesday evening, fresh and ready to make short, accurate work of our vote count.
I have conducted two elections in Silverton without incident. Despite this mishap, this third election under my watch will be no different. All eligible voters will have their opportunity to vote, and Candidates will know that their efforts will not be wasted. It is my sincere hope that at the conclusion of this election, any lost confidence in the process will be fully restored.
There are likely questions remaining in the minds of Silverton voters as to how this will affect the April 3rd election, and also future elections. I have attempted to address common questions above, but I encourage you to call or email if you have concerns that I have not addressed.
Brian Carlson, Clerk/Treasurer
Town of Silverton
PO Box 250
Silverton, CO 81433