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Voters cast ballots at a polling location in Denver on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Adams County elections officials sent ballots to thousands of Aurora voters asking them to choose just one of six at-large candidates for City Council.

But voters are actually supposed to be picking two. 

Aurora City Clerk Stephen Ruge confirmed the error to The Colorado Sun on Wednesday morning and said he was working with Adams County’s Clerk and Recorder and the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office to try to remedy the issue. 

In all, officials say 17,774 ballots were affected.

A sample ballot screenshot of the erroneous question sent out to Aurora voters by Adams County. Voters are supposed to choose two at-large city council candidates, but the ballot instructs them to just pick one. (Screenshot)

Ruger said the city became aware of the problem Tuesday evening. The earliest that ballots could be mailed out was Friday. 

Adams County Clerk and Recorder Josh Zygielbaum accepted blame for the issue at a news conference on Wednesday afternoon. “I do take responsibility for it as the leader of this office,” he said.

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Only one affected ballot had been returned to elections officials by the time they realized the error. The remedy will be to send corrected ballots to all voters who received one with the erroneous question and then quarantine any erroneous ballots that were turned in to give people a chance to correctly cast their vote.

If an erroneous ballot is returned — either with one or two candidates selected — and someone does not replace it with one of the correct ones, the erroneous ballot will still count.

There are six people running for two at-large seats on Aurora’s City Council. They are Curtis Gardner, Angela Lawson, Martha Lugo, Thomas Mayes, Johnny Watson and Leanne Denise Wheeler.

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The at-large candidates are vying for four-year terms on the council.

Sample ballots posted to the websites for the Arapahoe County Clerk and Recorder’s Office and the Douglas County Clerk and Recorder’s Office indicate that the at-large City Council question error was not repeated on ballots for the southern part of Aurora. Ruger confirmed that voters in Arapahoe and Douglas were not affected by the error.

Aurora voters also have choices to make in three other City Council races and must pick a new mayor.

Last year, about a quarter of the voters in Adams County received their ballots late after nearly 61,000 of the documents were left in a truck parked in a secure location after being rejected at a U.S. Postal Service facility for improper documentation. That situation unfolded under the watch of then-Adams County Clerk and Recorder Stan Martin.

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Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold said her office is aware of the problem and has been working to help local elections officials remedy it. 

“We are working closely with Adams County to come up with the best solutions to ensure that all eligible voters in this race can cast their ballot and have it counted accurately,” said Jenny Flanagan, Colorado’s deputy secretary of state.

Judd Choate, director of Colorado’s elections division, said the error actually isn’t that unusual.

“This happens quite frequently — this particular problem, where you have to vote for more than one candidate in a race, will often happen because you’ll draw in the new data into an older format,” Choate said. “It’s a standard problem. We have a standard solution for it.”

Jesse Paul is a Denver-based political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is the author of The Unaffiliated newsletter and also occasionally fills in on breaking news coverage....