Early election activity 'jumping'

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— The Routt County Clerk's office was buzzing Monday as voters showed up for the first day of early voting.

Already, 175 people have cast their votes by absentee ballot, and another 56 voted early at the Courthouse Monday. Another 25 have either picked up early ballots at the courthouse or have asked to have them mailed.

"It's jumping," County Clerk Kay Weinland said of the early election activity.

By comparison, 111 people turned out to vote on the first day of early voting in 2000. But Weinland characterized that turnout as a record day.

Registered voters may still come to the courthouse and pick up absentee ballots. Early voting will continue from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. on business days through Nov. 2.

Weinland sees the trend toward absentee votes growing steadily and says the reason is convenience.

"When you come in here (for early voting), you have to have all your decisions made," Weinland explained. "People who take out absentee ballots have the luxury of sitting down with a cup of coffee" and consulting election guides as they make their decisions.

Early voting allows voters to avoid any lines on election day. However, if recent history serves as a guide, the polls may not be that crowded next month.

Historically, the Nov. 6 election, which represents an "off-year election" in 2001, would not draw high voter turnout. Voters in Colorado are not voting in presidential or gubernatorial races. Four City Council races in Steamboat Springs are all contested, but there are no individual races for county government posts.

The most active City Council race in 1999 drew 2,500 votes, and a proposal to create a downtown development authority was defeated by a vote of 1,563 to 551. The extension of a half-cent sales tax to benefit the local public schools attracted a total of 2,126 ballots, with the measure passing by a margin of 1,195 to 931.

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