Denver Election Commissioner Sandy Adams authorized use of the sample ballots, which is allowed by statute in emergencies, said Denver Election Commission Operations Manager Matt Crane, who blamed the shortage on the large turnout.
Crane did not know how many voters turned in sample ballots. FairVote Colorado, a self-described "nonpartisan voter assistance project," received reports that it was about 35. Several other vote centers reported running out of provisional ballots, including Manual High School.
Several members of National Abortion Rights Action League-Pro-Choice Colorado stood in line two hours to vote at Manual High School, only to be told around 7:50 p.m. that the center was out of provisional ballots, and that they'd have to wait, said Kathryn Wittenben, who is with NARAL. At 8 p.m., Wittenben showed up at the Denver Election headquarters to try and get a supply to bring to back to Manual. Several of the NARAL group works in Denver but live in the suburbs, necessitating their use of provisional ballots.
At the election center, Democratic poll watcher Adrienne Benavidez summed up the situation: "I think this election was a series of unfortunate events that put them in a place" where they had to authorize voting on sample ballots. "It will certainly slow down the counting of ballots because it has to all be done manually."
Meanwhile, at another crowded voting center, the line stretched to a full city block. Around 6:30 p.m. at the Denver Botanic Gardens, irritated, weary voters trudged forward, scanning their sample ballots with flashlights provided by volunteers. Some drank from water bottles and ate pretzels also furnished for free. Voters were told to expect a two and a half hour wait, and many wore suits and fine sweaters, appearing to come from work.
"I'm completely outraged," said Dr. Cecile Rose, 52, who would normally be home with her two children by 7 p.m. "It's an attack on the American system. (Mayor) Hickenlooper needs to be accountable. The election commission, primarily, needs to be accountable."
Christie Hitchcock, 47, said waiting for hours "takes the joy out of it."
Joan Betz, 60, said her husband opted not to vote because of the lines. "It's like a third world country," Betz said, looking at the darkened crowd in front of her.
Election officials downplayed the inconvenience. Election Judge Dave Webster said voters remained respectful, even if upset. "I don't see anyone interested in backing away from voting," Webster said. "But I think there's a number of people that are going to register their opinions with elected officials."