EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado - People who wait until election day to vote at their neighborhood precinct are a little like whooping cranes: They exist, but aren't as plentiful as they once were.
Eagle County Clerk and Recorder Teak Simonton said she expects the vast majority of all ballots cast in the county this year to come in either via the mail or through early voting.
Simonton's office sent out about 16,000 mail ballots last month. As many as 15,000 will either come back via the mail or be hand-delivered to clerk's offices in Avon, Eagle or El Jebel. (Handy hint: At this point in the season, you have to hand-deliver a mail ballot in order for it to count.) Simonton said another 3,000 people or so took advantage of early voting in the weeks before the election.
Together, those voters account for roughly 80 percent of the roughly 22,000 ballots expected this year in the county.
For readers who haven't yet voted, here's a look at the people and issues on this year's ballot, starting with state and local ballot issues:
• Voters in the Eagle River Fire Protection District - which covers the county from Tennessee Pass to Wolcott, not including Vail - are being asked for a property tax increase. District officials say the increase is needed to offset declines in property tax revenue in 2012 and 2014. Officials say the tax - which will keep the district's revenue at 2010 levels - will allow the district to keep open all four of its current fire stations.
• The Gypsum Fire District - which covers the town, the area up Valley Road, Dotsero and the Colorado River Road area - is also asking voters for a property tax increase. If passed, the increase will raise the district's revenue by just more than $250,000 per year. Since district officials missed a deadline to get on the county ballots, individual ballots can be returned to fire station on Second Street.
• The Vail Town Council is asking voters to make six changes to the town charter, on topics from editing the town charter to replace masculine terms gender-neutral language to a mandate for the town council to adopt a long-term capital improvement budget.
• Amendment 64 would legalize possession and cultivation of small amounts of marijuana for people 21 or older. If it passes, the amendment requires the Colorado Legislature to pass a tax on wholesale sales, with the first $40 million from that tax going into the state's public school construction assistance fund.
• Amendment S was referred to voters by the state legislature, and would make several changes to the state's personnel system. Those changes include expanding the veterans' preference in hiring, and allowing governors more flexibility to appoint people to various positions in state government.
• Amendment 65 asks members of the state's congressional delegation to support a federal constitutional amendment to limit campaign contributions and spending.
State Board of Education
The Colorado Board of Education has a contested position for the seat representing the the Second Congressional District - which includes roughly the eastern third of Eagle County.
Candidates are Republican Ann Fattor and Democrat Angelika Schroeder.
University of Colorado Board of Regents
Two seats are available on the governing board of the state's flagship university.
The "at large" seat, which is contested statewide, is held by incumbent Democrat Stephen Ludwig. He's being challenged by Republican Brian Davidson.
Another seat on the board represents the 3rd Congressional District. Democrat Jessica Garrow and Republican Glenn Gallegos - one of the founders of The Gallegos Corporation - are the candidates.
The redistricting process for Congress split Eagle County into two districts. That split is so fine that some Eagle-Vail residents living along Deer Boulevard are in separate districts.
For the past decade, the Eagle River side of the county has been in the 2nd Congressional District, anchored by Boulder. That seat has been held since 2007 by Democrat Jared Polis, who's running for another term.
Redistricting has put a big chunk of Larimer County, Boulder County's northern neighbor, into the 2nd District. Reflecting the demographic change, Republican State Senator Kevin Lundberg is challenging Polis.
Most of Eagle County - roughly from Eagle-Vail west - is now in the 3rd District. In terms of square miles, the 3rd District is one of the largest in the nation, encompassing all of the Western Slope and the southern part of the state to roughly Interstate 25.
That district is currently represented by Republican Scott Tipton of Cortez. Tipton, who defeated former Rep. John Salazar in 2010, is running for his second term in office. He's being challenged by State Rep. Sal Pace, a Pueblo Democrat.
State legislative and congressional district maps are re-drawn every 10 years, following the federal census. Eagle County used to be in a state legislative district that included Eagle, Summit and Lake counties. The latest round of re-districting created a new district including Routt and Eagle counties.
The new seat is being sought by Republican Chuck McConnell and Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush.
McConnell has a career's worth of business experience, mostly in the energy industry. Mitsch Bush is a retired college professor and is currently a Routt County commissioner at the end of her second term in that job.
Term limits will change the leadership of the 5th Judicial District, which covers, Eagle, Summit, Lake and Clear Creek counties. Current District Attorney Mark Hurlbert can't run for another term, so the seat will be filled by either Scott Turner or Bruce Brown.
Turner, a Summit County Republican, is Hurlbert's top deputy and a longtime prosecutor. This is his first run at public office. Brown, a Democrat living in Clear Creek County, ran against Hurlbert in 2004 and was narrowly defeated. Brown is a defense attorney with an office in Idaho Springs.
Two seats on the three-person board are up for election this year. The District 1 seat has been occupied for the past eight years by Democrat Peter Runyon. Because of state term-limit laws, Runyon cannot seek a third consecutive term.
Three people are seeking to replace Runyon: Republican Jeff Layman, Democrat Jill Ryan and independent candidate Dale Nelson. Layman, currently the community manager in Eagle-Vail, is a longtime area police officer. Ryan, the former head of the Eagle County Department of Health, is a public health consultant. Nelson, a member of the Homestead Homeowners Association, owns a custom woodworking shop in Avon.
In District 2, incumbent Democrat Jon Stavney is seeking a second term on the board. He's being challenged by Republican Courtney Holm, an attorney with an office in Eagle-Vail.
Avon Town Council
Current council members Amy Phillips and Kristi Ferarro have both served two consecutive terms and can't run again. Incumbent Buz Reynolds is running for a second term. The rest of the field is: John Minervini, Matt Gennett, Jennie Fancher and Jake Wolf.