Lake County Contacted Some Unaffiliated Voters After Failing To Record What Primary They Voted In

March 3, 2020

The Lake County clerk’s office reached out to more than 250 unaffiliated voters to determine what party primary they voted in after failing to comply with a state law requiring they record it. 

Lake County Clerk and Recorder Patty Berger said on Super Tuesday the 274 ballots for those unaffiliated voters have been tallied and the clerical error did not affect the person’s vote. Berger said they discovered the error last week and immediately notified the Secretary of State’s Election Division. 

In an email to CPR, Secretary of State spokesperson Steve Hurlbert said that Lake County failed to follow the state law that requires counties to record what party ballot unaffiliated voters submitted in a primary election. Hurlbert said the state office collects party information only, while the candidate of choice for each voter remains anonymous. 

Colorado allows unaffiliated voters to participate in primaries for Democrats and Republicans, but only allows them to cast a vote in one.  

Berger, who’s been the clerk and recorder for 25 years, said she was not aware she had to record what primary the voters participated in.

Hurlbert said their office advised Lake County to comply as best as possible, which is how the office ended up contacting individual voters. Hurlbert’s email said “this method is less accurate than recording party information by using prescribed methods.”

Berger said she started contacting voters last Friday, first by email and phone, while letters were sent out to affected voters Saturday. Berger’s office worked with the Secretary of State to determine what voters needed to be contacted. 

As of 4 p.m. Tuesday, Berger’s office had heard back from 151 out of the 274 people affected. Hurlbert said Berger has until March 25 to obtain the remaining information. 

“We’re not asking how they voted or who they voted for, we’re just asking which party ballot they voted,” Berger said. She added, “We're sorry it happened but we’re trying to do the best we can.”

Lake County has 4,311 active registered voters, according to the Secretary of State’s March 1 tally. They include 1,754 unaffiliated voters, meaning as much as 15 percent of these voters were affected by the clerk’s error.