Colorado Secretary of State Bernie Buescher is asking the federal government for a waiver of the requirement to mail ballots to military service members overseas 45 days before the November election, a move that means some ballots might not be counted.
Spokesman Rich Coolidge said the ballots will still be mailed, but some soldiers in remote battlefields might not have enough time to mail them back, even though the state will give them an extra seven days after the election. He said they can also send them by e-mail or fax.
Coolidge blamed late primaries and petition deadlines. He said primary ballots also went out under short notice, but the 45-day deadline doesn’t apply to those elections.
“Our timelines are very tight with the caucus and the petition process,” Coolidge said.
The decision drew a rebuke from Republican lawmakers, who said it is unacceptable.
State Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, said ballots for all soldiers should count and the state should protect the privacy of their vote.
Tipton said in a letter to be sent to Buescher that President Barack Obama signed the new deadlines in October, as part of the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, to address voting challenges for the military.
“Unfortunately, it has come to our attention that Colorado will soon be submitting an application for a waiver from an important provision of the act. This is an important provision that guarantees that military personnel serving our country abroad can cast their votes in time for those votes to be counted, and that the privacy of those votes can be protected,” Tipton said.
Buescher warned last year that he probably wouldn’t make the deadline, along with other states with late primaries, including Washington.
Coolidge said Buescher is working with the Secretary’s Best Practices and Vision Commission to revise the state’s election calendar, which may involve moving the primary.
“Obviously, this will require legislation and when the calendar changes it creates a domino effect for all other dates in state election law,” Coolidge said.