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Instead of hitting the polls, hit the mailbox

Teak Simonton
Vail CO, Colorado

Colorado doesn’t have a presidential primary anymore, so the first time you will have the opportunity to vote for president is in November 2008. Preparations and planning are well underway in election offices across the country and locally in the Eagle County Clerk’s office.

There are many challenges to consider and address to make the voting process as clear and organized as it can be. These include the type and quantity of voting equipment, division of voters into legal-sized precincts, additional polling locations, number of election judges, and comprehensive and effective judge training programs. We are also already working on security planning, voter outreach initiatives and Election Day logistics.

Presidential election year planning begins much earlier than you may think.



According to state law, voting precincts cannot exceed 1,500 registered voters. In recent years the South Eagle area has encompassed precinct 27, and has been fast approaching this limit. For this reason, I recommended that the Board of County Commissioners approve the creation of a new precinct. The new precinct 30 has been approved and for the 2008 election cycle will include all of the Terrace subdivision, the neighborhoods adjacent to the Eagle Ice Rink and Pool, all existing homes and new development south of Eagle Ranch and all existing homes on Brush Creek Road. All of the Eagle Ranch subdivision will remain in precinct 27.

The court ordered re-certification process of all voting systems currently used in Colorado is in progress and is being conducted by the Secretary of State.



Unfortunately, this process has taken a lot longer than initially planned. It was originally projected to be complete in July, but now will not be completed until December 18.

This delay has caused great concern on the part of county clerks statewide. We are uncertain whether our systems will be certified or de-certified going into a very important election with an extremely high voter turnout projected. It is not possible to plan and gain budget approval for the purchase of additional equipment because we don’t know what we can purchase or whether we will need to replace our entire inventory with a new equipment line.

Based on these challenges, the Joint Budget Committee of the Colorado legislature has been discussing the possibility of allowing an all-mail ballot format for both the primary and general election in 2008. The majority of clerks statewide support this option because it would eliminate the use of much of the electronic equipment at the polls and allow more time to complete certification. It will also allow clerks to make related purchase decisions without being rushed.



Verification of signatures (a practice we have used since the 2005 election) eliminates the possibility that anyone could vote someone else’s ballot. Mail ballot elections are also less expensive to administer and cost approximately 20 percent less than a polling place election. In fact, the state of Oregon has eliminated polling place elections all together, and exclusively uses the mail ballot format. They report few problems, positive response from voters, and high voter turnout.

Should the legislature determine that a polling place election is still the preferred format, we will get busy in early January planning for adequate polling locations, hiring and training more than 100 election judges and refining all of our polling place administration procedures. Many of our polling locations were quite crowded (some of you may have experienced this firsthand) in November 2006 and we want to be sure to do everything possible to ensure that no one has to wait excessively to vote. We plan to add polling locations in Eagle, Gypsum, Edwards and possibly Vail. We also plan to purchase additional equipment and hope to find 30 percent more election judges to keep the process flowing.

Regardless of the actual format used for the 2008 elections, voters can now sign up to permanently receive a mail in ballot for all special district, municipal and county elections held in Eagle County. These ballots can be sent to any address indicated, either in the county or at any temporary address, anywhere in the world. Forms are available on line (www.eaglecounty.us/clerk) or by calling our office.

Primary Election day next year is August 12 and the general election will be held Nov. 4. Detailed information about both elections will be mailed to all voters in June and will include your individual precinct, information about becoming an election judge and specifics about the election format. Please keep an eye out for this document and remember that Eagle County doesn’t send junk mail ” the letters and mailers we send contain important information about government services.

As always I value your comments and welcome any questions you might have.

I can be reached at (970) 328-8728 or via e-mail at teak.simonton@eaglecounty.us. Remember, voting is your responsibility and every vote counts!

Teak Simonton is the Eagle County Clerk and Recorder. E-mail comments about this column to editor@vaildaily.com.


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