Eagle County observes a record voter turnout

Melanie Wong

By the numbers

17,615 ballots cast in Eagle County this year

14,920 ballots cast in Eagle County in 2010

13,263 ballots casts in Eagle County in 2006

56 percent turnout rate for Colorado this year

65.4 percent turnout rate in Eagle County this year (based on new eligible voter definitions)

Source: Eagle County Clerk and Recorder, Colorado Secretary of State’s Office

EAGLE COUNTY — Bucking the national trend, Eagle County and Colorado as a whole had a record number of voters during the Nov. 4 midterm elections, according to unofficial results.

In Eagle County, 17,615 voters cast their ballots either in person or via mail ballot. That’s compared to 14,920 voters in the last mid-term elections in 2010, and 13,263 voters in 2006.

The Eagle County Clerk & Recorder’s Office is still working to resolve some minor certification problems and said that the official results should be available by Nov. 18. However, Clerk & Recorder Teak Simonton said she doesn’t expect the final counts to be dramatically different from the unofficial numbers.

The county did release current counts on the close Eagle County Sheriff’s race. The current totals have James van Beek leading with 8,230 votes and Daric Harvey trailing with 8,172. The 58-vote difference isn’t enough for a mandatory recount (which requires a 40-vote or less difference), and Simonton said no further action is expected from the candidates.

“I vote every election. You have to vote, otherwise you can’t be mad about what happens.”
Paul Bass
Vail voter

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Eagle County record

Simonton said that this year’s data was complicated by the fact that the state expanded the definition of a legal voter, so a few thousand people were added to the county’s eligible voter list. As a result, the county’s turnout rate for eligible voters dropped slightly, despite the fact that there were more ballots cast than ever before.

“We used to not include people who missed a general election as an active voter, but now we do, putting our county total to about 26,500 voters,” said Simonton. “If we used the old definition, this election would have had a 77 percent turnout.”

The turnout was an exception to the national trend. Colorado was among the few states that didn’t see extremely low turnout rates. In the country as a whole, 36.6 percent of eligible voters voted, compared to 40.9 percent in 2010, according to data from the United States Elections Project.

Simonton attributed the high turnout both to the introduction of mail-in ballots and a higher voter awareness of the issues and races.

Mail-In Ballot Impact

This was the first year that counties were allowed to use mail-in ballots during a November election, and Simonton said that probably encouraged people to vote who might have otherwise forgotten or been to busy to come to the polls.

“There was such a number of interesting local, contested races, all the way down to surveyor, and there were so many tight races across the country and at the federal level,” she said. “There was so much more money poured in to these elections, and people were more aware, even at a local level, with the candidate forums and media coverage.”

Amendments, tight races bring out voters

Some Eagle County voters agreed, saying that a number of the amendments or hotly contested races brought them to the polls.

Amendment 105, which would have required that GMOs be labeled, was of particular interest to many voters.

“I voted no on that,” said Vail resident Paul Bass, who said that he votes in every election. “I’m a chef, and I think food is labeled perfectly the way it is.”

Brian Thompson, of Minturn, disagreed, saying he voted in favor of the amendment.

“We can set the standard for the rest of the country,” he said. “I want to know what my food is.”

Others cited the personhood law, Amendment 67 as a top priority. Thompson said he worried that the amendment would mean limiting choices for pregnant women.

“To make a woman choosing to have an abortion criminally liable is a direct conflict of basic human rights,” said Thompson. “To me, it’s scary to see that.”

Voters also said they paid particular attention to local races, including the Avon Town Council race, which featured 10 candidates for four council positions.

“I paid a lot more attention to the Town Council than in past years because I feel like they’re not giving the taxpayer a chance to agree or disagree,” said Dave Scherpf, of Avon, referring to Avon projects such as the new stage and plans for a new town hall. “There should be transparency and everything has been hidden.”

While some were motivated by party politics, others said they voted purely because they thought it was their duty to do so.

“I’m a Democrat, but I think it’s important not to vote just along party lines. It sounds like there were some close races, so every vote counts on a national level,” said Thompson.

Others said they vote every election, tight race or not.

“I vote every election,” said Bass. “You have to vote, otherwise you can’t be mad about what happens.”

Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and Follow her on Twitter @mwongvail.

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