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Clerk: Voter turnout moderate for mail-ballot election

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News

Voters who participated in Tuesday’s election were mostly in a “yes” mood this year, but overall voter turnout was “not great,” said Grand County Clerk and Recorder Sara Rosene, “considering it was a mail-ballot (election).”

Election workers had ballots counted up to Saturday before the election, but a “big push” on Tuesday delayed results after the polls were closed.

Ballots could not be counted during the work day because of a lack of space in county offices. Extra people and surveillance cameras are needed to verify and count ballots, Rosene said, which can considerably crowd 9 to 5 work space.

“We don’t have room to set up a scanner plus do business during the day,” she said.

Polls closed at 7 p.m., with final results in at 10:15 p.m.

By 10:45 p.m., the results were downloaded and printed.

Tuesday’s voting rush was “really good,” Rosene said. “But that end push is difficult for mail-in elections.”

As voters eagerly awaited results Tuesday, the bulk of ballots needed to be stacked, identified, scanned, then signatures verified against existing databases.

“Once we’ve gone through to verify that signatures are correct,” Rosene said, “judges go through and slice envelopes open. The ballots (which remain inside secrecy sleeves) are then removed.”

After that process, judges go back to the piles and remove ballots from the secrecy sleeves.

“By this time, they are out of order,” Rosene said.

The last voter identifier is the stub on the ballot, and judges go through and remove that stub if the ballot is folded correctly and the judges don’t have to open it to remove it. Since batches of ballots are locked up in accordance with state law, “the amount of time it takes to log in and out of every container is another time-consuming process,” Rosene explained.

Although election workers aim to get results out speedily, “the integrity is the important part,” Rosene said.

“We must go through all steps to not only make sure counting is done correctly, but to protect voter privacy. That just slows (the process) down.”

The county issued 6,337 mail-ballots to active registered Grand County voters, and of those ballots, 3,434 were counted in the 2007 election.

As many as 570 came back undeliverable. Since ballots cannot be forwarded, those sent to a certain place and not picked up had to be returned.

There are still about 20 or so outstanding ballots, and voters associated with those ballots were notified about missing or suspect signatures. Verification of signatures could still be returned to the county by Nov. 14, with an official recording of the election due Nov. 16.

From what Rosene could tell, however, there just aren’t enough ballots out there to alter the final decisions of the election.

Not everyone who had a ballot voted.

As many as 119 voters acquired their ballots over-the-counter at the county seat, perhaps due to an inactive voting status, and 113 of those were counted.

“We have a really high number of inactive voters,” Rosene said.

Such voters don’t automatically get a ballot but can still vote by requesting a ballot.

Then there were those who are on a permanent mail-in ballot list. There are 74 voters in this category. Of that amount, 46 ballots came back to the county to be counted.

For one-time mail-in requests, 59 ballots were sent out and 37 came back.

To Fraser Valley Metropolitan Recreation District property owners, 264 ballots were sent out and 230 were returned and counted. This number pales to the 2003 election, when 700 Fraser Valley recreation district property owners voted. Fourteen more ballots were counted this year from the Winter Park Water and Sanitation district property owners because the two districts overlap.

For the Hot Sulphur Springs/ Parshall Fire Protection District, two ballots were mailed out to property owners (non-registered voters of Grand County), and one came back.

For the Winter Park Water and Sanitation District, as many as 16 ballots were sent out to property owners in the district and 14 came back.

Rosene said in preparation for next year’s presidential election, which is expected to be much more complicated, voters are encouraged to request their mail-in ballots as soon as now. Applications are available on Grand County’s Web page.

The deadline for affiliating with a party is Dec. 5, two months before precinct caucuses on Feb. 5. In order to participate, one must be affiliated with a party.

And, Jan. 7 is the deadline for voter registration if one intends to vote in the precinct caucus.

“I would encourage people to take part in the process,” Rosene said.

Even though elections are a complicated and busy time for a clerk and recorder’s staff, Rosene said she is already looking forward to the 2008 presidential election.

“Elections are exciting,” she said. “They’re time consuming and tiring, but they’re so exciting. You just get addicted to them.”


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