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 (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)

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The number of El Paso County votes not counted in the June 26 election because unaffiliated voters returned marked ballots for both the Republican and Democratic primaries has risen to about 1,500, local officials said Tuesday.

The figure accounts for about 4.4 percent of the 34,517 unaffiliated voters who had returned ballots as of Tuesday, El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Chuck Broerman said.

For the first time, unaffiliated Colorado voters could cast ballots in either party’s primary last month. By state law, however, if a voter returns both ballots, each is disqualified.

State and local officials tried to caution voters against making the mistake through public outreach campaigns. In El Paso County, instructions in four spots on the ballots and ballot instructions advised voters to return only one ballot.

In Denver, unaffiliated voters whose votes were voided because they returned marked ballots for both primaries accounted for about 2.5 percent of about 37,000 who returned ballots, said Amber F. McReynolds, Denver election director.

In other states with similar election laws, the rejection rate for unaffiliated voters is about 6 percent to 8 percent, Broerman has said.

As of midday Tuesday, El Paso County had received a record 141,732 ballots, including 34,664 from Democrats and 73,034 from Republicans.

Broerman noted that his office still is receiving ballots. Military members overseas have until the end of the day Thursday to return their ballots. The same deadline also applies to voters who have been notified by the clerk that they must resubmit their ballot because they did not sign the ballot envelope or because their signature did not match the one on file, he said.

The primary election with the second-highest local turnout occurred in 2016, when about 86,000 county residents voted. Officials have attributed this year’s sizable increase to unaffiliated voters’ newly established ability to vote in primaries.

The primary results will be certified within about a week, Broerman said.

On Friday, the Clerk and Recorder’s office will conduct a “risk-limiting audit,” which Broerman described as a “deep statistical dive into the election process” meant to assure citizens that votes were counted accurately.

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