Committee supports all-mail elections | SteamboatToday.com

Back to: Explore Steamboat

Committee supports all-mail elections

Major possible voting method changes debated at state level

By the numbers

Regular versus all-mail-ballot election cost projections for 2009

– Regular: $103,181

– All mail: $61,203

Voting method preferences:

Year : Absentee/mail : Early : Election Day : Total

2005 : 358 (5 percent) : 2,140 (31 percent) : 4,352 (64 percent) : 6,850

2006 : 1,362 (17 percent) : 2,486 (32 percent) : 3,984 (50 percent) : 7,832

2007 : 1,640 (26 percent) : 2,469 (40 percent) : 2,100 (34 percent) : 6,209

2008 : 6,126 (46 percent) : 4,526 (34 percent) : 2,673 (20 percent) : 13,325

Mail ballots requested:

– 2004: 1,880

– 2008: 6,634

Source: Routt County Office of the Clerk and Recorder

— A citizens election committee gave its unanimous blessing to an all-mail-ballot election in 2009 proposed by Routt County Clerk and Recorder Kay Weinland, who estimates such an election could save county government about $40,000 this year.

Weinland said she plans to take the proposal to the Routt County Board of Commissioners – which is working to confront multi-million-dollar budget shortfalls – next week.

“This is huge for the county, especially this year,” said committee member Catherine Carson, noting the county budget situation.

Mail ballots have surged in popularity in recent years; 46 percent of county voters chose absentee and mail voting options in 2008. Requests for mail ballots increased by 4,754 in 2008 compared with the previous presidential election in 2004.

“It’s just a popular option,” Weinland said.

With another 34 percent of voters choosing early voting, only 20 percent of Routt County voters voted on Election Day proper last year, and the county successfully avoided a repeat of the 2006 election that saw frustrated voters waiting in lines for hours. The Citizen Election Review Committee was created after the 2006 election to improve county elections and has participated in subsequent discussions about election practices in Routt County.

Carson asked questions about the security of mail ballots. Weinland and her deputies said safeguards such as signature verification already are in place. Carson also asked about the possibility of setting up additional drop-off sites for mail ballots so residents don’t have to rely on the U.S. Postal Service, and she suggested some of the sites be open after hours.

Committee member B.J. Vale said it is everyone’s personal responsibility to vote and that the county shouldn’t go out of its way or spend extra money catering too much to voters. The majority of the committee, however, was supportive of the idea.

“We’ll make it as efficient and convenient for the voters while keeping it secure,” Weinland said. “A lot of the other counties have already worked on this, so we’ll use our network.”

To comply with federal law, at least one electronic voting machine still would be available for disabled voters under the plan.

Mail-ballot-only elections also may be allowed in even-year primary and general elections under a plan being developed by the state Election Reform Commission, which also voted to recommend the state require paper ballots counted by optical scanners rather than electronic voting machines. Last week, the commission voted on a number of recommendations to include in a final report to the state Senate and House of Representatives, according to commission staff member Kurt Morrison.

The commission also accepted recommendations that Colorado improve the statewide voter registration database, known as SCORE, require photo identification when registering to vote, redesign the voter registration form, participate in the implementation of a national voter registration database, and more.

Colorado election practices have come under fire from activists including the Colorado Voter Group, which thinks the system is corrupt and insecure.

“The Legislature is busy with election reform,” Weinland said, “whether we need it or not.”