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Grand County officials have been preparing for Nov. 4 since January

Tonya Bina
" Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail tbina@grandcountynews.com
Grand County, Colorado
Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi Daily News
ALL | Sky-Hi Daily News

Grand County, Colorado’s, Election official Sara Rosene, who’s been preparing for the 2008 election since January, says she can’t wait to vote ” but is holding off until next week.

“It feels so important, so special,” Rosene about this year’s election and the lengthy Colorado ballot. Followed by a shy laugh, she said, “I guess I want to savor it.”

Rosene plans to take part in the early voting, set up in the commissioner board room at the Grand County Administration Building until Halloween Day. Since Monday, two extra voting booths have been erected in the hallway to accommodate rushes in morning or around lunchtime.



With 9,228 registered active voters in Grand County, more than 60 percent are voting with mail-in ballots ” a new record, Rosene said. As many as 1,664 of them have already been returned to election headquarters.

“We’d love to issue more,” she said.



Rosene encourages registered voters to walk in and vote early, or to apply for mail-in ballots and vote early.

Applications for mail-in ballots must be filled out and handed in by Oct. 28 in order to get ballots to voters in plenty of time.

Not only will voting early produce tallies sooner, voting early side-steps unpredictables, like weather or long lines on Election Day.

Due to the number of mail-in ballots, and depending on the number returned before Election Day, Rosene said the county may have preliminary tallies Tuesday an hour or two after polls close.

Every vote counts, counted

Each ballot cast, whether walk-in or mail-in, goes through a rigorous process of storage, sorting and counting.

As they come in the mail or are dropped off each day, mail-in ballots are stored in a tamper-evident numbered and sealed security box and thoroughly logged.

On Oct. 27, four mail-in ballot judges ” two Republicans and two Democrats ” will start the lengthy rituals involved with ballot counting, such as removing the envelope flap that covers the signatures without opening envelopes. Tediously matching signatures filed in the county system, going back two generations. (If an envelope appears to have a suspect signature, the voter is contacted and has until Nov. 12 to correct the problem, Rosene said.) The process continues with removing ballots from envelopes, still cozy in secrecy sleeve, and separating them from identifying envelopes. When that’s done, judges then begin removing identifier stubs from ballots (still tucked in their outer sleeves) piling them, and setting them apart. Then there is removing ballots still folded up, with identifying info now all gone.

Before any ballot is counted, reconciliation judges of varied affiliations check them for anything that may trip up the counting scanners. If there is anything, Rosene said, such as using a Sharpie pen that leaks through to the other side, or coffee stains on a mail-in ballot, replacement ballots are made. Judges work hard to decipher a voter’s intent, Rosene said, but if impossible, a certain vote could be counted as an “under vote.” If a mistake is made on one question, and judges can’t decipher what was meant, it does not negate the whole ballot, however.

Poll watchers can be present during that process, and counting rooms are constantly video recorded.

Humans are involved where machines would fail, but counting scanners can achieve up to 80 pages per minute, so it’s not the actual counting that takes time in elections, but the tedious process involved for handling each ballot.

“We make every effort to honor every voter’s ballot,” Rosene said.

Election preparation takes place several months prior to the election. In dealing with logistics and processes, decertified and re-certified voting machinery, registration details using Colorado’s Score II database, ballots mailings and training 80-plus precinct judges of varied affiliations, an election such as this year’s is no small peanuts.

For that, it’s understandable Rosene is saving the moment for her own chance to vote. And like everyone else, she’ll produce her driver’s license and sign an affidavit attesting to her residency, mark her selections and look forward to results in the largest election ever witnessed in this ” battleground” state.

” Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail tbina@grandcountynews.com.


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