PUEBLO COUNTY, Colorado — Pueblo County's new Clerk and Recorder, Candice Rivera, told the Pueblo West Metro Board that she must decline to oversee the district's upcoming election this May.
State lawmakers passed an election security bill last year in response to investigations of vote machine tampering in Mesa and Elbert Counties. That same law prevents Rivera and the 23 other new clerks around the state from overseeing elections before they receive certification from the Colorado Secretary of State's Office. Rivera said the soonest she can enroll is April.
Her announcement surprised the metro district which had coordinated its elections with Pueblo County for years.
"It did catch us a bit off guard but, you know the way it works in this situation, it is what it is," said Anthony Sandstrom, Public Information Officer for the Pueblo West Metro District.
"She had every right to make the decision that she did and we 100 percent understand that."
He said the district hired a contractor named Community Resources Services (CRS) to print, mail, and count the ballots. Voters will notice a few changes, such as the return address on the ballot envelopes.
"They will be sending those to Greenwood Village, the CRS offices in Greenwood Village as opposed to Pueblo County."
Likewise, voters must only drop off their ballots at the secure drop box located outside of the Pueblo County Sheriff's Office annex on Joe Martinez Boulevard.
Rivera offered to hold Pueblo West's election in November, but again state law creates a conflict.
Ann Terry, Executive Director of the Special District Association of Colorado, explained the dates for special district elections are now defined by state law.
"Those regular elections are the first Tuesday after the first Monday in May in now, odd-numbered years."
There are more than 3,500 special districts throughout the state. Many of them have Designated Election Officials on staff or through contract.
She has noticed that many districts are struggling to hire or train Designated Election Officials.
"Elections have gotten kind of nasty nationwide as well as at the local levels," Terry said. "We want to look at a way that the Special Districts Association can empower our members to have Designated Election Officials and we're looking at a certification program.
The change in Pueblo West this year will cost the district more money. Sandstrom said the district reimbursed Pueblo County approximately $56,000 for its most recent election. The CRS contract is estimated to cost around $129,000.
"Luckily we did budget kind of a worst-case scenario thing with our elections budget this year," he said.
Pueblo West residents who wish run as candidates for the board of directors have until Friday, February 24 to submit their applications.
Visit the Pueblo West Metro District web page for more information.
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