Voter turnout tops 80 percent

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— Routt County Clerk Kay Weinland is just happy she doesn't work in Florida right now. After counting 9,682 votes in Routt County a new record she said she's ready for a break from elections for awhile.

Unlike Florida, which counts absentee ballots up to 10 days after the polls close, Weinland and her staff attempted to count absentees in advance of Election Day. Any absentee ballot that arrived after 7 p.m. on Election Day was not counted, she said.

"We send the ballots at least 30 days before the election," she explained. "That should give people enough time to send in their ballots."

Weinland believes the controversy over the presidential election which went back and forth Tuesday was, to some degree, drummed up by the media.

"I think it's in part just sensationalism," she said.

The outcome of the presidential race remained undecided Wednesday as officials in Florida continued with a recount of votes mandated because just a few hundred ballots separated George W. Bush and Al Gore. The winner of the state will win enough electoral votes to be the next president.

Voter turnout in Routt County reached a new high on Tuesday, with 81 percent of active voters in the county having their say at the ballot box. Among those voters, 46 percent voted for Bush, about 45 percent voted for Gore, while 8.4 percent, nearly three times the national average of 3 percent, voted for Ralph Nader.

Weinland said the high turnout was due to two basic factors: a higher percentage of registered voters coming out to the polls, and a higher number of voters in general.

The higher number of voters, she said, has to do with growth in the community.

During the last presidential election in 1996, 7,944 Routt County residents came out to vote.

Many of the local races, like the presidential nail-biter, went down to the wire. Both the state Senate District 8 and the state House District 56 race were undecided at 3 a.m. Wednesday and eventually were determined by a few percentage points.

Al White, the Republican candidate for the House, beat Democrat Jay Fetcher by a mere 326-vote margin out of about 31,000 ballots cast.

Unofficially, Republican candidate for state Senate Jack Taylor finished with 26,821 votes to 25,680 for his Democratic challenger, Paul Ohri. Ohri actually won Routt County, Taylor's home, by a slim margin of about 70 votes.

Taylor served eight years in the state House, but White will be a new lawmaker.

To reach Avi Salzman call 871-4203

or e-mail asalzman@amigo.net

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