Eagle County ballots slowly being returned | VailDaily.com

Eagle County ballots slowly being returned

About 10% of ballots are in now with a week to go before Election Day

Eagle County has seven 24-hour drop boxes for ballots. As many as 40% of ballots are returned on Election Day and the day before.
Emily Peterson/Vail Daily

People seem to be waiting to return their mail ballots this year, but that’s not unusual. According to data from the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, only about 10% of ballots mailed out earlier this month have been returned. Eagle County is tracking with that statewide number.

More than 35,000 ballots were mailed Oct. 8 to county voters. As of Oct. 24, just more than 3,100 ballots had been returned.

Time is growing short to return ballots by mail. The Eagle County Clerk & Recorder’s office must receive ballots Nov. 2 by 7 p.m. for those ballots to be counted. There’s a bit of flexibility there — post offices and election officials work to ensure that ballots received on Election Day are counted. But a postmark doesn’t count.

That means more ballots will be deposited over the next few days at the seven 24-hour drop boxes around the county, as well as voter service centers.

The drop boxes are at the Vail, Basalt and Gypsum town halls, outside the clerk’s offices in Avon, Eagle and El Jebel and outside the Mountain Recreation field house in Edwards.

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Voter service centers allow people to register to vote, or update their registration. Ballots can also be left there, and spoiled ballots can be replaced. Those centers are now open at Avon Town Hall, the Eagle County administration building in Eagle and at the El Jebel community building. A voter service station opens Oct. 28 in Vail in the Grand View Room atop the Lionshead parking structure.

Vail for the first time this year is participating in the county’s coordinated election. The town for the rest of its history had conducted its municipal elections separate from the countywide ballot.

That’s led to confusion in the past, with people showing up at the town’s polling place — town hall — looking to cast ballots in the broader election.

Some in Vail have long advocated joining the countywide election to boost turnout in municipal elections.

Eagle County Clerk and Recorder Regina O’Brien said we’ll be able to see just how turnout was affected after the election. O’Brien said county election officials count the different ballot styles. Vail has its own ballot style, enabling a good look at the impact on turnout.

County voters receive ballots specific to their addresses. For instance, only voters in the Eagle County School District see choices for school board candidates. Voters in the Roaring Fork Valley receive different ballots.

All county voters will see questions from the state and a county question asking to extend term limits for county commissioners.

Voters in Vail and Avon will see separate tax-increase questions, both aimed at providing a dedicated source of funding for housing. Voters in the Mountain Recreation District, which stretches from Edwards to Dotsero, are being asked for a property tax increase to fund facilities and programs.

Vail voters will select four candidates for the Town Council, and Avon voters will decide whether to recall Mayor Sarah Smith Hymes and Council Member Tamra Nottingham Underwood.

Waiting to vote is pretty common in the county, with as many as 40% of ballots arriving on Election Day and the day before.

O’Brien said the county’s voter turnout in odd-year elections is generally in the high 30% range. That’s a far lower turnout than in even-year general elections.

“We keep hoping for a 40% turnout” in the odd-year elections, O’Brien said. The final tally next week will see how interested county voters are this year.

By the numbers

35,000: Approximate number of ballots sent Oct. 8.

3,132: Eagle County ballots returned as of Oct. 24.

3.8 million: Statewide active voters based on party registration.

313,372: Statewide ballots returned as of Oct. 24.

Source: Colorado Secretary of State.

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