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Hordes of voters casting early ballots

Tamara Miller
Bret Hartman / Vail DailyEagle resident Pam Payne takes advantage of early voting Thursday at the Eagle County Clerk and Recorder's office in Eagle.
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EAGLE COUNTY – Vote early and vote often is how the saying goes.Gypsum resident John Burke took care of the first Thursday morning. As for the vote often part?”I’ve never voted before in my life,” Burke said, as he sat waiting for election officials to hand him his first ballot.Burke’s been old enough to vote for some time, but never felt compelled to before. But he’s watched too many middle-class Americans struggle to make ends meet and decided it was time he did something about it, he said.”I think if you don’t vote, you really can’t actively complain,” Burke said. Burke was one of the predicted 8,000 to 8,500 Eagle County residents who will cast their votes early or via absentee ballot, up from about 6,100 in 2000. That’s about 40 percent of the 20,540 active voters in the county. Voters have been filing into the Clerk and Recorder’s Office in Eagle and the satellite office in Basalt since Oct. 18. Early voting ends today. Early voting has its advantages for the voter and for election officials. Cathy Thompson still has visions of a recent Election Day when voters had to wait in long lines outside in the snow and rain. That’s why she cast her vote Thursday instead.

“I think it’s going to encourage better turnout,” she said. It also gives voters an opportunity to update their addresses on their voter registration, said county Clerk Teak Simonton. “We can rectify the situation right there,” she said. On Nov. 2, voters would have to drive down to the county offices in Eagle to correct their addresses. Those who fail to update their addresses on their voter registration, or turn up at the wrong polling place, will cast provisional ballots. Even if their registration is verified, only their vote in the presidential election will count, Simonton said. Early voting also makes it easier for Simonton to predict turnout, or to determine if she has ordered enough ballots. She has predicted local turnout will meet or exceed the turnout in 2000, which was about 80 percent. National voter turnout for the 2000 presidential election was 51.3 percent, according to the Federal Election Commission.Eagle County voters have plenty of local races to consider this election season, including two county commissioner races, a town council race and several local referendums. But the presidential election between Republican President George Bush and Democratic Sen. John Kerry is what got Burke finally to the voting booth.

“I’m voting for Bush,” he said. “I don’t like Kerry that much. Most people I know are divided about it. I have some friends who are voting for Kerry.”It’s the issues that affect her and her grandchildren that Karla Taylor of Gypsum was thinking about when she voted Thursday. Taylor, a firefighter for the Gypsum Fire Department, wouldn’t say who she voted for, but said education and affordable health care are her biggest concerns. This year was the first time she voted early. “I’m a firefighter and I never know when I’ll have time,” she said. Ruling could increase provisional ballotsA ruling made earlier this week allowing absentee voters to still head to the polls and vote in person could increase the number of provisional ballots that are cast in Eagle County.Before Tuesday, anyone who received an absentee ballot was required to vote via absentee ballot. A Denver District judge overruled Colorado’s Secretary of State Donetta Davidson on that rule, making it possible for those who received an absentee ballot to vote in person, Eagle County Clerk Teak Simonton said.

Voters who received an absentee ballot but didn’t submit it will be allowed to cast a provisional ballot. Provisional ballots are separated so election officials can verify if the people cast them are eligible to vote. Provisional ballots are used if people vote at the wrong precinct, don’t bring identification or if election officials have no record that they are registered to vote.Clerks were concerned that too many people would try to vote twice by submitting an absentee ballot and casting a ballot at the polls, according to the Rocky Mountain News.Simonton predicted that 400 to 500 provisional votes will be cast in Eagle County.If election officials find out that the voter was at the incorrect polling place, according to the address on their voter registration, only their votes in the presidential election will be counted, she said. – Tamara MillerStaff Writer Tamara Miller can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 607, or tmiller@vaildaily.com.Vail Colorado


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