Courtesy Colorado Legislature

The Case of the Missing Blue Book Pages first surfaced earlier this week with phone calls and emails among progressive activists.

A friend of Carlos Valverde, the head of the Colorado Working Families Party, gave him a call and asked, “‘Hey, what does your Blue Book look like? Is it missing any pages? We’ve heard reports that many are missing pages.’”

Valverde is part of the coalition pushing Proposition 111, which would cap interest rates and abolish fees on payday loans. After that phone call he made sure to check his Blue Book and “sure enough, it was missing two pretty important ballot measures,” he said — his own and Proposition 112, which would greatly increase required setbacks for new oil and gas wells.

Valverde’s first reaction was sadness and then it “turned into anger.” It’s his belief that the Blue Book’s nonpartisan information alone would help sway voters to the payday lending measure.

Voters who received an incomplete guide can request a new copy by emailing bluebook.ga@state.co.us or calling 303-866-3521. Local county clerk offices also have copies.

The Capital’s nonpartisan bureaucrats, known as Legislative Council Staff, are responsible for compiling and distributing the Blue Book. The guide, which provides the language of each ballot measure along with pro and con arguments and information about judicial retention elections, is sent to every Colorado household with a registered voter.

Acting Director Natalie Mullis said the problem comes down to an equipment fault.

“The way the printers work, they print sections,” Mullis said. “Then the equipment puts the sections together and there was an error, a malfunction, that meant that some of the sections didn’t get into some of those books.”

Mullis said there’s no way to know how many Blue Books went out with missing pages. However, as of Oct. 11, her office had only verified four cases of misprinted guides.

“We think that they are isolated. Unfortunately even just one book that gets mailed out that’s incomplete is a failure,” she said.

Progressive groups want Legislative Council to take a more active approach to ensuring every voter gets an accurate Blue Book. They’re calling on the state to launch a PSA campaign to warn people they may not have a complete guide and to investigate how the error could have occurred in the first place.

A statement from a number of groups, including labor unions and the groups backing an education tax increase and the oil and gas setbacks measure, called the printing error “deeply concerning.”

The statement went on to note, “to achieve fair elections, the state must ensure that voter guides are accurate and complete so that voters have all the information they need to make an educated decision on all ballot issues.”

The incomplete guides is actually the second problem with the 2018 Blue Book. When the books started going out in the mail, another error caused them to be sent to only physical addresses, not mailing addresses. The problem was discovered when undeliverable Blue Books started piling up at rural post offices in parts of the state where many people only get their mail through P.O. boxes.

In the end, around 90,000 Blue Books had to be re-sent. Every household with a voter in the state should have theirs by the end of this week. According to Legislative Council, that problem too came down to an error on the printer’s end.

“We are reviewing the contract with the vendor and honestly, I haven’t had a lot of time to negotiate with the vendor today, but we will be doing that,” Mullis said.