Concerns over military voting in recall election

Lindsay Watts, Weekend GMC Anchor/Target 13 Investigator , l.watts@krdo.com
POSTED: 10:24 AM MDT Aug 17, 2013    UPDATED: 12:13 PM MDT Aug 17, 2013 
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -

It's a scramble to make sure the recall elections of state Sens. John Morse and Angela Giron are fair after a judge ruled that candidates can join the race up until 15 days before the election.

Some are concerned about the more than 900 military and overseas voters who've already received ballots that will likely be outdated by the time the Sept. 10 election day arrives.
 
"Military service members overseas are going to have a difficult time voting and, if they do vote, many are going to lose the right to a secret ballot," said Garrett Reppenhagen, a veteran and member of the nonprofit Vet Voice Foundation.

For all elections, military members can vote through email, fax or a secure website,
but they waive their right to a secret ballot when voting this way. One person in the county elections office sees their name and vote.

"I think just trusting the fact that one person is going to see your ballot, and it's not necessarily secret isn't comforting to every service member and every voter," said Reppenhagen.

Pueblo and El Paso county election leaders are working to notify military members about changes in the recall. They're being told the best way to vote at this point is by email, fax or website, but they still have the option of mailing a secret ballot as long as it arrives at least eight days after Sept. 10.

"We're working with the Secretary of State's Office, who is looking at vendors who may be able to ensure the (mailed) ballots come back in a more speedy manner," said El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Wayne Williams.

Williams points out that in traditional elections, many service members opt to waive their secret ballot. In the last election, 996 voted by email, 58 by fax and just 121 by mail.

"Most of them choose to do that because they trust our staff member who handles these matters," said Williams.

It was the Libertarian Party that sued the state to get additional candidates on the ballot. So far no third-party candidates have gotten enough signatures to appear on the ballot along with Democrat John Morse and Republican challenger Bernie Herpin for Senate District 11, and Democrat Angela Giron and Republican challenger George Rivera for Senate District 3. The two senators are being recalled because some are angry about their support of gun control legislation.

The judge's ruling to allow more candidates on the ballot means that local voters will have to go to polling places instead of using the mail. Williams says, with the addition of some new polling places, 89 percent of El Paso Co. voters will be within five minutes of a polling place, the rest within 10 minutes.

He said the recall will cost the county about $220,000, up $70,000 by having to move the election to polling places.

Pueblo's Clerk and Recorder Bo Ortiz said he's still calculating the total cost. He said it was at about $180,000 before having to move to the polls.