There are hundreds — perhaps thousands — of people across the 3rd Congressional District whose votes haven’t yet been counted due to problems with their ballots. They’re now at the center of the tight race between Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert and her Democratic challenger, Adam Frisch.
“They're saying that they got two to three to four calls. They got text messages, they got emails, people showed up at their house,” said Clerk Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz of Pueblo County.
These voters face a deadline of 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday to fix issues with their ballots if they want to be included in the final tally. And the two political parties are in an all-out sprint to convince those voters to get it done, with hundreds of volunteers and political staffers fanning out — in person and virtually — across the 27 counties in western and southern Colorado that make up the 3rd Congressional District.
Why is it taking so long to count votes in Colorado? Here's why — and other ballot counting questions, answered
In Pueblo County alone, about 720 ballots were rejected initially. As of Wednesday night, close to 300 of those had been “cured,” according to figures provided by Ortiz.
That still leaves hundreds of uncured ballots in Pueblo and beyond. Mesa County similarly listed about 470 rejected ballots as of Wednesday morning, the vast majority of which were missing signatures, according to a county spokesperson. And if similar patterns hold in other counties, based on voting patterns, that means there could be some 2,000 ballots that still haven’t been marked as cured. Boebert currently leads by about 1,100 votes.
Those cured ballots — along with ballots received from overseas and military voters that were postmarked by Election Day, plus others that were held back to increase the final pool and help ensure all these votes stay anonymous — won’t be counted until after the Wednesday night deadline. In Pueblo County, Ortiz expects the last ballots to be tallied on Thursday.
Both campaigns and their allies are encouraging voters to cure their ballots
The lists of voters with rejected ballots are public records. That means the counties must provide interested parties with details such as the voter’s name and political affiliation — though a person’s actual voting choices are never to be revealed.
Instead, each campaign and their allied groups examine the lists, looking for people who are likely supporters. They then might contact the person by phone, online or even in person to suggest they get their ballot counted.
“Thanks to hundreds of volunteers, we’ve been able to help voters cure their ballot in nearly every county in the Third District,” wrote Madeleine Schmidt, a spokesperson for the Frisch campaign.
She estimated that there are 4,000 to 6,000 votes that haven’t yet been counted, including overseas, military and cured ballots.
Boebert’s campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment on Wednesday. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Republican National Committee both have “staff on the ground in Colorado,” according to The Colorado Sun. Officials with the state political parties declined to comment about the details of the operations.
Earlier this week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s campaign sent an email to Democratic supporters across the country, urging them to volunteer for phone shifts to contact voters in the 3rd Congressional District.
For some voters, all the outreach borders on harassment
Ortiz said the effort had become excessive for some voters.
“Dozens of people tell me that they feel like they're being harassed — the frequency that they're getting calls and they're even getting people showing up at their homes,” he said.
Often, he said, “people are rude… The first thing they do is ask you, ‘Who did you vote for?’ And if you didn’t vote for their candidate, they hang up on you.”
One young woman told him she would never vote again because of the experience, Ortiz said.
“I was able to calm her fears,” Ortiz said. “But how many people aren't calling me that have already made that decision because of this issue?”
A deciding race for the House majority
But, he said, other voters were pleased to be at the center of things.
“We're getting a lot of calls of people that are grateful, saying, ‘I can't believe that my vote could decide whether who's gonna go to the U.S. House of Representatives.’”
As of Tuesday night, Republicans were one seat away from capturing the majority in the House. CO-3 is one of 11 House races across the country that still have yet to be called. Even if the GOP takes the majority by winning another election, the CO-3 race is important because it will determine the size of the margin in the House. A larger margin makes it easier for the majority party to take legislative action.
However, the race won’t necessarily be over once these final votes are counted. Colorado law requires an automatic recount when the margin is less than or equal to half a percent of the winner’s vote total.
Based on the current vote tallies, a recount would be triggered if the margin is within 800 votes — meaning Frisch would have to gain at least a few hundred votes in the final tally to get within range.
More 3rd Congressional District coverage:
- Wait, so why is it taking so long to count votes in Colorado? Here’s why — and other ballot counting questions, answered.
- Frisch is a moderate Democrat and former Aspen City Council member. He made a centrist pitch to voters as he faced an uphill battle in District 3.
- Read our full November 2022 interview with Adam Frisch. He talked about ballot curing, voter turnout and whether he’s "Democratic enough."
- It quickly became clear on Election Night that hardline conservative Rep. Lauren Boebert would face a tougher-than-expected reelection race.
- Residents of Colorado’s vast 3rd District woke up on the days following Election Night without knowing who would represent them in Congress for the next two years. Here's what they have to say.
- Efforts from both parties to reach voters who needed to cure their uncounted ballots quickly ramped up. Some voters felt like all the calls, emails and even door-knocking bordered on harassment, while others were pleased to be at the center of things.
Editor's note: This article was updated on Nov. 16, 2022 with updated figures from Mesa County.
You want to know what is really going on these days, especially in Colorado. We can help you keep up. The Lookout is a free, daily email newsletter with news and happenings from all over Colorado. Sign up here and we will see you in the morning!