Election results could change

Provisional ballots could make election night results obsolete

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This November, there's even more of a chance that a candidate will go to sleep feeling confident of a win and then wake up to the news that an opponent came out on top.

Because of new state rules, truly official results may not be known in close races until days after the election, Routt County Clerk Kay Weinland said.

"The totals we get (on election night) will not be as firm as they have been in the past," Weinland said.

"The odds of anything changing (from election night results) in the past were really slim," Weinland said. "Now they undoubtedly will be different."

Election night results always have been unofficial, but in the past, they typically have predicted what official results would be.

But now, a national decision to start providing provisional ballots in 2002 and a state rule that followed mean election night results may not predict final results as well, Weinland said.

Starting in 2002, provisional ballots have been issued at the polls to people who haven't updated their records. For instance, if someone moved from Denver to Routt County and did not update his address, he could go to the polls, vote on a ballot and have his vote counted a few days later after officials verified that he was registered in Denver, Weinland said.

Provisional ballots are a "great opportunity," Weinland said. Instead of turning some people away at the polls, the provisional ballots give them another chance for their vote to count.

But the allowance for provisional ballots combined with a new Colorado rule that requires people to bring a form of identification to the polls means unofficial election night results are more likely to change in the ensuing days.

The Colorado rule was implemented in 2003, so this year represents the first year it will be applied to high volumes of voters.

Now, if someone in Colorado shows up without a driver's license or other identification, they are given a provisional ballot. Those are counted in the next few days because several databases have to be checked, Weinland said.

If a race is not close, then election night results probably won't change. But if there is a two-vote difference, the provisional ballots could turn the results around.

In a metro county, the changes could "turn around a state race if it's close," Weinland said. "Candidates and the public are just going to have to accept it."

Voters should remember to bring their IDs to the polls to keep the number of provisional ballots to a minimum, Weinland said.

"Bring that ID, because it's critical," she said.

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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