Early voting under way in county | VailDaily.com

Early voting under way in county

Scott N. Miller
Kira Horvath/Vail DailyResidents can vote early at the Eagle County Clerk's offices in Avon and Eagle.

AVON Travis Coggin had some extra time Monday morning, so he voted. He had quite a bit of company.About 20 people came into the Eagle County Clerk and Recorder’s office in Avon Monday morning, the first day of early voting. Business was brisk enough at the two electronic voting stations that Eagle County Clerk and Recorder Teak Simonton plans to bring in two or three more to Avon. Those machines will probably clear any early voting lines.

Simonton and other election officials in the state are urging people to vote early this year, either in person, or by absentee ballot through the mail. So far, Simonton’s office has mailed out more than 4,200 ballots, and expects that number to approach or exceed 5,000 by the time this election season is over. Another 2,000 people or so are expected to vote early. If voter turnout this year is about what it was in 2002 – the last general election without a presidential race – early voting could account for more than half the votes cast in the county this fall.The push for early voting is driven primarily by the length of this year’s ballot. Between state and local issues, voters have to work through 18 screens on the county’s new voting machines, or a long, full page printed front and back on the paper versions. Even filling out a paper ballot at the kitchen table can be time-consuming.

“It probably took me 20 to 25 minutes at the kitchen table,” George Titus of Singletree said. “Some of the questions you really have to think about what they’re asking.”

Titus voted absentee this year because he’s also an election judge. He’s trained on the new voting machines so he can help voters who might have questions.”I didn’t really have trouble with them,” Titus said. “They’re pretty easy.”Coggin also said using the voting machines is pretty easy. It took him quite a while to get through the ballot, though.”It was pretty slow reading in places,” Coggin said. “I knew some of the (issues) ahead of time, but you don’t get it all in the blue books they send out.”If he was giving advice to anyone else voting early, Coggin said “I would have a cheat sheet, especially on the local issues.”John Schwartz of Avon had done his homework. He and his wife had downloaded sample ballots from the Internet, had looked at the booklet about state ballot issues and re-read election-related stories on vaildaily.com.”If you don’t have a discussion, you don’t know the pros and cons of the issues,” Schwartz said. “If you have to read the fine print at the ballot box, it’s going to take a while.”Schwartz said he voted early because of the complexity of the ballot and the chance not everyone would come in with a clear idea how to fill in the ballot.”I thought the delays on Election Day might be prodigious,” Schwartz said.He worked through his ballot easily, stopping only a few times to ask questions, which Simonton and Avon office employee Doris Dewton answered quickly.

“Is there a paper record I take?” Schwartz asked.

No, Simonton said. The paper record that appears, then disappears, to the left of the electronic screen is a backup in case a machine, or an entire election, needs to be re-counted or certified.Schwartz said a paper record in the voting machines makes him more comfortable about the accuracy of the machines.

The reliability and security of electronic voting machines was the subject of a lawsuit in Denver district court earlier this year. Judge Lawrence Manzanares ruled that the electronic machines could be used this fall, but ordered Colorado Secretary of State Gigi Dennis, the state’s top election official, to come up with new security measures for election officials around the state.Simonton’s new election security system adds up to about 50 pages, she said, and includes a full-time security camera that watches a single computer in Simonton’s office. While the new rules aren’t as burdensome as Simonton first thought, they are a pain.”It probably takes us twice as much time to do some things, with all the security logs and seals that are required now,” she said.Coggin said he’s confident the machines are working as they should.”They’re super easy to work,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with them.”Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 748-2930, or smiller@vaildaily.com.Vail Daily, Vail Colorado

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