Data: El Paso County elections among the most efficient in Colorado
El Paso County spent less per registered voter in the November 2013 election than all but two other Colorado counties, according to data that will be released this week through the Accountability in Colorado Elections project launched by the Secretary of State's Office.
The data outlines everything from how many ballots were rejected in each county during the 2013 election to how many state deadlines the county missed.
Rich Coolidge, spokesman for the Secretary of State's Office, said the goal is to provide additional transparency that before was only available by calling each of the state's 64 counties.
"A lot of the questions that we get from people throughout the state deal specifically with things done at the county level," Coolidge said.
The new system, known as ACE, will allow the public to see county level data in one location.
For example in 2013, 8,442 mail ballots were rejected by counties, the data shows. On average that's .2 percent of ballots rejected per eligible Colorado voter.
El Paso County had a rejection rate on par with the state average.
Smaller counties rejected ballots at a higher rate. Rio Grande County had the highest rate, rejecting 1 percent, or 77 ballots, during the 2013 election.
The data can be easily skewed each election in counties that have small voting populations.
Coolidge said it's hard to extrapolate too much from the data because it's only one election.
"This is going to be our baseline," Coolidge said. "We can now compare across different elections to see what's really happening. If we're getting a lot of undeliverable ballots back over time, what does that say about our voter list maintenance system?"
The data show that of 3.1 million ballots mailed across the state, 1.4 million were not returned and 283,000 were undeliverable.
It costs counties money to mail each ballot, and there is an additional fee from the U.S. Postal Service for each ballot returned undeliverable. El Paso County had the highest number of undeliverable ballots in the state - 47,377 - or about 11 percent of the registered voters. Lake County had 29 percent of its ballots returned undeliverable, the highest rate in the state.
El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Wayne Williams said the real problem with undeliverable ballots is that those are voters who may be missing the chance to participate in an election. He urged voters to check their registration at govotecolorado.com.
Williams, a Republican who is running for secretary of state in November against Democrat Joe Neguse, said he supports the release of data.
"The fact that once it's released you will be able to go on and get information without the need for a CORA request or calling the clerk - or calling 64 clerks - makes it more open and transparent for government in Colorado," Williams said.
He said there was concern among clerks that a single election's worth of data wouldn't provide a complete picture.
"If you look at the cost data you'll see that for counties that are very small, the election costs more on a per-elector basis because there are simply some things that have to be done by everybody," Williams said.
And he said elections in Denver County cost more because of the requirement to provide bilingual ballots.
The new system, however, allows for county clerks to provide comments on the data that will be seen by the public.
Williams said he is proud of the efficient elections El Paso County runs.
"El Paso County ranks very well in terms of the efficiency of the election process, and we're in one of the top five of the counties," Williams said.
The data will be available to the public Wednesday at www.sos.state.co.us.