Denver’s Clerk and Recorder printed a couple of mistakes in the Spanish-language ballot guide

Printing the booklets — which have already been mailed to households — cost $187,000 (not including labor costs).
4 min. read
Samantha Rhodes completes her civic duty for the November, 2020 election outside of the Carla Madison Rec Center on Colfax Avenue. Oct. 16, 2020.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

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Update: Since this story was published, the Clerk and Recorder has recanted its claims that United Language Group is at fault in the errors in the Spanish-language Municipal Ballot Information Booklet and says the mistakes happened internally.

Our original story follow below.

The Denver Clerk and Recorder's office printed a couple of mistakes in its Spanish-language Municipal Ballot Information Booklet, which repeats the same language three times, across two different referred questions.

The city repeated language describing Referred Question 2J, which addresses taxes for Climate Action, in its description of Referred Question 2K, which addresses the taxation of homelessness services. In fact, the city repeated the language twice in its intro to 2J.

The books have been printed and were sent to voters on Sept. 30. The cost of printing: $187,000. That does not include staff labor, translation or shipping. The books will likely not be reprinted, officials said, so voters relying on the paper version will have the wrong information.

The digital version of the Spanish-language ballot guide has been corrected.

Local communications consultant Alejandra X. Castañeda, who is currently working with Denverite to translate our upcoming 2022 voter guide, noticed the error.

This is the paragraph that was repeated:

"¿Puede la Ciudad y el Condado de Denver retener y utilizar todos los ingresos de 2021 derivados del impuesto sobre ventas y uso del 0.25% sobre la Acción Climática, originalmente aprobado por los votantes el 3 de Noviembre de 2020, y continuar imponiendo y recaudando el impuesto hasta el límite del 0.25% permitido por la aprobación original de los votantes?"

The English-language booklet is correct.

The Clerk and Recorder's office made a mistake in the November 2022 Spanish-language ballot guide.
City of Denver

Here's how the Clerk and Recorder's office explained the mistake:

"Our office partnered with the City of Denver's contracted vendor United Language Group (ULG) to translate the booklet content from English to Spanish and to proofread that translation," explained Lucille Wenegieme, a strategic advisor in the Clerk and Recorder's office. "Unfortunately we received an incorrect translation from the vendor, which was printed. The Spanish version of the TABOR booklet contained a double print of the information for Ballot Measure 2J and a translation error for Ballot Measure 2K."

Here's what the Clerk and Recorder's office says this means.

"We have a digital copy of the book available online, which has been updated here," Wenegieme said. "Changes or updates to printed communications regarding TABOR are planned well in advance to secure the paper, printer capacity, and other factors to make sure we are able to get these to voters on time election over election - even in the midst of a paper shortage and ongoing supply chain issues."

The process for drafting and translating the books takes six days after the public is given a chance to comment on ballot measures.

"We often go through over 100 revisions in that timeframe," Wenegieme said.

The Clerk and Recorder's office updated the guide after Denverite pointed out the error.

Voters can check out the updated digital copy of the guide here.

"The materials we give out in our regular direct to voter communications is correct and we welcome any voter to contact us directly for the latest information on our 311 hotline," Wenegieme said.

The clerk's office is now trying to spread the word about the mistake.

"Our office knows that voters rely on official communications as they research the issues and candidates on their ballot," Wenegieme said. "We are reaching out to our community partners to spread the word about the updated language, as well as engaging with the Acceso committee, who provide advice and guidance to our office in communicating to the Spanish language community for elections information and voting participation."

How will the clerk's office ensure this doesn't happen again?

"Our printed materials, and the particularly 96-page TABOR book, are highly technical, legally mandated documents. We have multiple staff members, some of whom are bilingual in English and Spanish, review the content of the book," Wenegieme said. "At each revision, the vendor is consulted to make official translations of that technical and legal information, and to proofread those translations, which we rely on as the final word on what we print."

This article has been updated to reflect that the Clerk and Recorder's office corrected the mistake in the digital version of the Spanish-language ballot guide. The headline has also been updated to reflect that the Denver Clerk and Recorder's office printed the mistakes.

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