It looks like van Beek is Eagle County sheriff |

It looks like van Beek is Eagle County sheriff

Eagle County Clerk & Recorder Teak Simonton lifts a bag full of ballots to a shelf where they are kept in the basement of the Eagle County Building in Eagle on Wednesday. The bags contain over 17,000 ballots from Tuesday's election.
Anthony Thornton | |

Sheriff’s results

James van Beek: 8,214, 50.18 percent

Daric Harvey: 8,154, 49.82 percent

88 ballots left to sort out

2014 Election steps

26,500 registered Eagle County voters

17,600 ballots cast

15 steps to verify and count each ballot

264,000 total steps

EAGLE — It’s almost statistically impossible for Republican James van Beek to not be the new Eagle County sheriff.

Eagle County Clerk and Recorder Teak Simonton and the election judges counted another 117 ballots Wednesday, and van Beek still leads Democrat Daric Harvey by 60 votes.

There are still 88 votes still to sort out, Simonton said, and there’s still a slim chance Harvey could pull it out.

“It’s possible, but not very statistically probable,” Simonton said.

To win, Harvey would have to get a huge majority, and most of the outstanding voters with signature issues would have to resolve these issues within seven days, she said.

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Wednesday’s results will be the last until the election is verified on Nov. 13, Simonton said.

Van Beek said he was happy, but exhausted.

“It was a long, hard race and certainly a good race. There’s still a small chance it could swing, and we can’t say anything with 100 percent certainty,” van Beek said. “The outpouring of support was fantastic. Even today I was pulling up signs and people were honking and waving.”

264,000 steps to election

You verify election results the same you do everything else — one step at a time.

While we live in an instant-gratification world, ballot counting is time consuming and exacting.

For those who insist on whining about how long it takes to get election results, do everyone a favor and shut your pie hole. They’re not sitting around drinking wine and telling jokes.

After working until the middle of the night on Election Day, Simonton and some of the election judges were back in the basement of the Eagle County Building on Wednesday morning, poring over the remaining ballots.

Of Eagle County’s 26,500 registered voters, 17,600 cast ballots. Of those, 2,500 people procrastinated until after 2 p.m. Tuesday.

Every ballot has to go through 15 steps — human steps — and that’s 264,000 total steps.

Four bipartisan human eyes scour every ballot. Among other things, they make sure the name on the envelope is the person who cast the ballot, Simonton said.

Sometimes there’s a problem — signatures don’t match, or the voter registered by mail and did not include a copy of their ID in the envelope — things like that. If there’s a problem, the voter is sent a letter and has eight days from Election Day to come to the Clerk and Recorder’s Office to straighten it out.

“Our experience is that not all of these folks take action,” Simonton said. “It’s probable that less than half will.”

If there’s a recount in the sheriff’s race, it will happen the week of Nov. 17, Simonton said. If the results are within 0.5 percent, a recount is required by law.

“I’m 99 percent certain that even if we have a recount the vote will not change. We were extremely careful,” Simonton said.

Carl Walker is a local minister and has been a poll watcher and election judge for six years. He has yet to see any sign of election fraud, he said.

“Teak runs a tight ship,” Walker said.

Save the mails

When Colorado’s state Legislature changed Colorado’s elections to all mail-in ballots. When lawmakers did that, they mandated that habitual non-voters be included on the voter rolls. That pushed the number of Eagle County’s registered voters up to 26,000 from 22,000.

By Monday night the Clerk and Recorder’s office had 13,350 ballots returned, with traffic brisk in all locations.

“Conducting elections by mail is less complex in many ways,” Simonton said.

For one thing, the Clerk and Recorder’s staff oversees three voting locations in Eagle County, instead of 15.

Instead of transporting and installing 80 pieces of election equipment, they handle 10 with the mail ballot election.

Judge training is down from five four-hour sessions for 110 judges to three two-hour sessions for 14 judges.

“Basically, the polling place format was tremendously overwhelming, not only for my team, but for 20 or so other department employees who helped us,” Simonton said.

Even with mail ballots, Election Day is still a big day.

“Mail ballot formats are busy and intense, but much more orderly and less frenzied,” Simonton said. “They are less complex, but still complex. They are more controllable, allowing better consistency and solid process integrity.”

Mail-in elections also cost less.

“Yes, we send ballots to more voters through the mail, but we don’t have the expense of polling place judges to the same degree, and this saves the county tens of thousands of dollars,” Simonton said.

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