EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado - The days of standing in line to vote, sometimes in the snow, are an increasingly distant memory in Eagle County. These days, most of us vote early.
In 2008, more than half the voters in the county cast mail ballots. Still more took advantage of early voting at the three offices run by the Eagle County Clerk and Recorder's office.
As of Thursday, the clerk's office had about 4,800 mail or early ballots in hand. In 2008, the last presidential election year, more than 21,000 people voted.
With another week and change before Election Day, Eagle County Clerk and Recorder Teak Simonton said that early voting this year has been slower than years past, but that could be due to the fact that 64 percent of all registered voters this year asked for mail ballots.
Still, whether people vote in person or by mail, Simonton said she and her office encourage early voting. The lines are shorter and, ultimately, results may come a little more quickly after the polls close at 7 p.m. on election night.
Early voting is done with the county's electronic machines, so votes are recorded and ready to count as soon as the polls close.
Mail ballots are a bit more complicated. The paper ballots have to be scanned into the county's machines, and election judges must verify each signature on each ballot. It can take seven hours to verify 1,000 signatures, Simonton said.
When the initial scanning and verifying is done, the ballots are sealed and stored and then tabulated on election night.
While early voting has become more popular over the years, it's hard to tell just how it effects how parties and candidates run their campaigns.
Kaye Ferry, chairwoman of the Eagle County Republican Party, said she doesn't believe early voting favors one party or the other. But, she said, it can affect the parties' get-out-the-vote efforts.
Jill Ryan, a Democrat running for the District 1 seat on the Eagle County Board of Commissioners, is in her first election campaign. She said she isn't sure how early voting might affect her race.
"We've tried to time it to really get our message out about a week before early voting started," Ryan said. That said, though, Ryan said she's going to campaign full out through Election Day.
"Every vote counts, so you just can't let up," she said.
Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or firstname.lastname@example.org.