District receives hundreds of late ballots
By the numbers
2,780: Votes in favor of a tax increase for the Eagle County Health Service District.
2,756: Votes opposed.
300: Number of late or undeliverable ballots received so far by the district.
$40,000: Approximate cost of the May 3 mail ballot election.
EDWARDS — The votes have been counted in the Eagle County Health Service District’s May 3 election, but ballots are still arriving every day.
Several Edwards residents Monday saw a box of ballots delivered to Veronica Ross, the district’s designated election officials.
Ross said Wednesday that all those ballots arrived too late to be counted. Many, she said, bore May 3 postmarks from other ZIP codes. That means they arrived too late to be counted.
“We were in the (post office) lobby when it closed, and asked (postal employees) to look for every ballot they could find,” Ross said. Every ballot that arrived after that came too late to be counted. Cissy Olson, a designated election official at Marchetti and Weaver, an Edwards-based firm that handles special district accounting and management, wrote in an email that she and other election officials often see ballots that were postmarked later than May 3. That’s despite notices on the front of all ballots that state ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on Election Day.
The ambulance district — which includes Vail and the entire Eagle River Valley — this spring asked voters for a property tax increase. That revenue will help fill a hole in the budget caused in large part by provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act that both expanded Medicaid eligibility and reduced reimbursement to facilities that provide care to those patients. That has created a roughly $1.8 million annual shortfall in the district’s budget.
The proposal passed, but by only about 24 votes.
The ambulance district was one of four districts asking voters for tax increases this spring. The others were the Eagle River Fire Protection District, the Gypsum Fire Protection District and Edwards Metropolitan District. All the proposals passed, but the ambulance district vote was by far the closest.
The ambulance district has also had the most returned ballots, although that could be due to the fact the district has by far the most voters.
In an email, Kris Nash, the designated election official for the Eagle River Fire Protection District, said that district had received roughly 170 late or undeliverable ballots as of May 10. Ross said she’s heard the same story from all of the election officials responsible for the May elections.
Those numbers are high compared to coordinated county mail ballot elections.
In an email, Eagle County Clerk and Recorder Teak Simonton wrote that the last county election saw more than 5,000 ballots mailed out, and only 50 or so arrived too late to be counted.
The problem may be the number of separate elections held by the districts. For instance, a voter in Eagle-Vail would have had separate ballots for the Eagle-Vail Metropolitan District Board of Directors as well as the fire and ambulance districts. All had to be mailed separately.
“The state doesn’t allow us to coordinate on the same ballot (for spring elections),” Ross said, adding that she and other election officials are now working to see if there are ways to make voting easier for residents.
And, she added, “we need to come up with some kind of affidavit for the postmaster to sign that we were there when the post offices close on Election Day.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org and @scottnmiller.