By Brian Maass and Kati Weis


COMMERCE CITY, Colo. (CBS4) – CBS4 has learned dozens of voters in Commerce City may not have been able to vote in the recent city council election. An Adams County spokesperson said Commerce City failed to send elections officials up-to-date address data, resulting in incorrect ballots being sent to 143 addresses.

“What happened here was they only got the state questions, they got the county questions, but they didn’t get city specific questions even though they had been annexed into the city,” Jim Siedlecki, a spokesperson for Adams County, said.

The city-specific question missing on the ballot was for the Ward IV city councilperson.

Commerce City sample ballot in the 2019 November election with the Ward IV question circled. (credit: Adams County)

Siedlecki said the first 103 addresses were discovered in mid-October. When that mistake was noticed, Adams County officials corrected it by sending additional ballots with the Ward IV question on it. So those voters did have a couple of weeks to turn in their ballot.

But, the 40 other addresses weren’t discovered until the day before election day, after a curious voter asked Commerce City officials why the question wasn’t on their ballot. That last-minute discovery sent Adams County elections officials scrambling to contact voters about the mistake.

“We jumped on the phone immediately, and emailed those 40 impacted voters, trying to alert them with the one day’s notice that was provided to us by the city to let them know you still have one more day, but you have to show up in person to vote those Commerce City-specific questions,” explained Siedlecki.

Gilberto Rayez’s home was on the list of the 40 affected addresses. He said he didn’t receive any phone calls or emails the day before election day.

Gilberto Rayez (credit: Kati Weis, CBS4)

A spokesperson for Commerce City declined to comment in an on-camera interview about what led to the mistake. However, Siedlecki said rapid growth in the city may be partially to blame. In Rayez’s neighborhood, there are dozens of homes under construction.

“I mean, I can understand how it happened,” said Rayez. “But I feel like it’s still not right, because we still should get that vote, because we live in the district.”

The Ward IV election was a close race – a difference of only 138 votes.

Steve Davis currently serves as the Ward IV city councilman, and came in second place.

“I have heard some people say they are confident that this would not have changed the outcome of the election, but I’m not sure if I share that feeling with them,” Davis said. “I don’t know to what degree some people weren’t able to vote.”

Despite being a city council member, Davis said he wasn’t notified by city officials about the problem, but rather discovered the mistake through CBS4 Investigator Kati Weis.

Steve Davis speaks to CBS4 Investigator Kati Weis about concerns regarding the Ward IV city council election. (credit: Kati Weis, CBS4)

“It troubles me that I had to hear it from the media before I heard it from my own city, it troubles me that Adams County didn’t bring this out publicly. Had they brought it out publicly, they would have saw it on TV, and said ‘hey I need to get down there and vote,'” said Davis. “Some people may not have gotten to vote, and that troubles me.”

Adams County said it is taking lessons from this mistake to make sure it’s prepared for the bigger 2020 election.

“This is a very rare case,” Siedlecki said. “It is an opportunity for us to work with our cities and make sure all of our systems are refined as we move into that big election.”

Commerce City issued the following written statement about the ballot mistake:

“The city does not register voters or conduct elections. The city has a cooperative agreement, an IGA, with Adams County to conduct coordinated elections. The city has worked cooperatively with the county to verify addresses and ensure that all Commerce City residents had the opportunity to exercise their right to vote.”

 

CBS4 reporters Brian Maass and Kati Weis serve on the CBS4 Investigates team, uncovering fraud, waste, and corruption. Send them a news tip or follow them on Twitter @Briancbs4 and @KatiWeis.

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