[Image courtesy of mbcc]

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams and several county clerks are urging voters to deliver their ballots to drop-off locations rather than put them in the mail after reported postal delays in delivering ballots. The Colorado Springs Gazette has more:

Delays by the U.S. Postal Service trapped some El Paso County election ballots in a cycle between Denver and Colorado Springs this month, with some ballots reaching voters days after they were sent.

Issues with barcoding delayed roughly 10,000 ballots statewide, and prompted Secretary of State Wayne Williams on Tuesday to issue a plea to voters to not drop their mail-in ballots in a Postal Service box, less they get lost in a similar cycle.

The El Paso County Clerk and Recorder’s Office joined the state by instructing voters to bring their ballots straight to the ballot box to make sure they get counted …

The decision to discourage voters from mailing in their ballots was made after a Monday night reckoning of county clerks, who compared notes and found that the reported issues with ballots were not random, [El Paso County spokesman] Parsell said.

“I think that just in this circumstance, we feel more comfortable urging people to return them in drop boxes,” Parsell said of the ballots.

The USPS, for its part, is disputing the reports of delivery issues:

[A] spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service said on Tuesday that voters should have no concerns about dropping their completed ballots in the mail. Spokesman David Rupert said that the delays were minor, and ultimately millions of ballots were delivered on time – a statistic that bodes well for return ballots, he added.

“We had 2.9 million ballots that were mailed that week, and we can ascertain that 99.97 percent of those were delivered on time,” Rupert said on Tuesday. “I would call that a tremendous success.”

But the County pointed to data suggesting that ballot delivery this year had been slower in some communities than in the past:

Last year, ballots were mailed on Columbus Day (a Monday), and reached voters on Tuesday, Parsell said. But this year, some of the roughly 340,000 ballots mailed took days to arrive.

“Some of those were delivered on Thursday and Friday, or on Friday and Saturday,” said Parsell. “And some of those ballots were also driven back and forth between Denver (and Colorado Springs) two or three times.”

I wouldn’t be surprised if stories like this become more commonplace. Just as we’ve seen in places like Utah and California, election officials are increasingly concerned about the effect of postal service changes on vote by mail ballots – and while some states count ballots that are postmarked by Election Day, others without that rule are encouraging voters to take a “better safe than sorry” approach to returning their ballots on time. For its part, the USPS appears to be willing to publicly dispute concerns about delivery problems – but election officials may no longer be willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Stay tuned.