Eagle River Station vote was complicated by new state law | VailDaily.com

Eagle River Station vote was complicated by new state law

EAGLE, Colorado – Eagle saw its highest voter turnout ever in the Eagle River Station election last week.

It also experienced its biggest ballot counting headache.

Last year, the Colorado Legislature enacted a new provisions that allow votes to designate themselves as permanent mail-in voters. That meant that even through the Eagle vote was a polling place election, Eagle Town Clerk Marilene Miller was required to mail out 1,595 ballots. Of that number 1,228 were returned.

But it wasn’t just the volume of mail in ballots that complicated counting. State law also designates that in a municipal election, such ballots must be treated in the same manner as absentee ballots. That means they must remain sealed until opened by one of the official election judges on election day.

“It just took hours to count,” said Miller. “Because we were so busy at the polls, only 200 of the mail-in ballots were counted during the course of the day. The rest were opened and counted after we closed the polls.”

Miller said there was a several step process in place to ensure that each mail-in ballot was numbered and tracked to a specific voter prior to being opened. As the ballots were returned, they were compared to a voter list. People who had already cast mail-in ballots could not vote again at the polls on election day.

Additionally, Miller noted 93 people who had received mail ballots, but did not return them, showed up at the polls to vote. In those individual cases, election judges had to verify that their ballot numbers were not accounted for.

Once the mail-in ballot information was compared against the voter list, the tab at the bottom was removed and the ballot was finally unsealed.

When she originally opted to do a paper ballot, Miller made her decision on the fact that a “yes” or “no” election is a relatively simple count. But in just three months, Eagle will run its regular municipal election and the vote can be markedly more complicated if several candidates step up to run for the three open seats. Miller noted she is considering asking Eagle County if she can use some of its voting machines if the town board field gets crowded.

And even though the interest won’t likely be as heated, Miller will again be sending out nearly 1,600 mail-in ballots for the town board election this spring.

While last week’s election day was long and the final count wasn’t completed until after 3 a.m., the judges and representatives from both the pro and anti Eagle River Station teams agree the count was accurate.

“The vote was honest and the results were right and the law was followed. That’s what is important,” said Miller.

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