Clerk’s office in election mode
Ryan Summerlin November 2, 2012
EAGLE, Colorado – Anyone who has stopped by the Eagle County Clerk’s office in the last two weeks knows the kind of organized chaos that goes on in the weeks leading up to Election Day.
Eagle County Clerk and Recorder Teak Simonton looks oddly comfortable with all the madness – phones are ringing like crazy, early voters are coming in throughout the day, mail-in ballots are arriving and the staff is balancing a hundred different election-related responsibilities – and Simonton has it all under control.
“The days go by fast and it’s fun – I don’t mind it,” Simonton said Friday morning, as she gave new meaning to multi-tasking.
Simonton talks to her staff, which includes temporary election workers, throughout the day. She said in some ways the days leading up to election day are easier than the actual Election Day.
“Election Day is tough – it’s very intense,” Simonton said. “There are a lot of people calling and sometimes we get some very aggressive poll watchers who overstep their bounds. We’ve even got an election judge today telling my staff what to do – and I’m like, ‘No, that doesn’t fly.'”
There’s not much that does fly with Simonton, who runs an organized operation and is proud of it. She’s careful and passionate about the integrity of what she does and it’s obvious when you talk to her for even a few seconds that she ensures no stone goes unturned.
She jokingly rolls her eyes when she talks about folks who are afraid their ballots won’t get counted if they drop them in the box. She said people often tell her they’re worried the ballots will get thrown away.
“I say, ‘Oh my God, would you please come and watch what we do – it is so careful. Nothing is done with one person, ever,” Simonton said. “Every single ballot that comes in gets counted – how do you think we get to 19,000 votes?”
She points to the bipartisan checks and balances going on in the office as just one of many examples of the office’s accuracy. Election judges Kay Small, a Republican, and Joanne Cermale, a Democrat, work side-by-side verifying signatures on mail-in ballots, for example.
In the coming days, Simonton and the staff will install all of the non-secure equipment at all of the county’s 15 polling places. They’ll also deliver supplies and signs to polling places. It begins Saturday morning at the Eagle County Airport, where the clerk’s office rents cargo vans from the airport to make all of the deliveries.
The county provides election day workers from 16 of its departments, Simonton said.
“The Eagle County government is an incredible team,” she said.
If those workers haven’t already helped out in an election at the county, they’ve likely gone through training earlier this week. Simonton’s office provides training on everything from IT troubleshooting on the voting equipment to training for the couriers who pick up the ballots to training for those answering phones on how to use the statewide voter registration system.
With all of that out of the way, Simonton said she just waits for Election Day and hopes there aren’t any crises such as electronic equipment malfunctions or power outages. There are contingency plans for those scenarios, she said, but she hopes she won’t have to use any of them.
This year, Simonton said she expects about 20 percent of the voter turnout to come at the polls on Election Day. She expects about 70 percent of votes to come from mail-in ballots and the remaining 10 percent to come from early voters.
Simonton expects to be in the office into the early Wednesday morning on election night, but at least she’s been training for it – she’s been in the office until 11 p.m. many nights already.
“It’s constant action,” she said.
Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.