Our View: Lessons of 2004 election

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The Routt County Clerk and Recorder's Office shows there are 12,793 active, registered voters in Routt County. Almost 11,500 of them -- 90 percent -- voted in Tuesday's election. More than any outcome of any race, such turnout was heartening to see. And that turnout was replicated across the country. Fifteen million more people voted in the 2004 election than in the 2000 election. More people voted this year than in any election in history.

Also impressive was the way in which county clerks across the state and nation handled the results. The ominous warnings of widespread voter fraud, disenfranchised voters, intimidating poll watchers and teams of lawyers prepared to challenge results proved false. The votes were counted, the winners were clear, and our system of democracy worked as it should.

There are other issues that emerged in Tuesday's election results that are worth noting:

n There can be no question about the legitimacy of President Bush's re-election. The president swept the South and West, defeated Sen. John Kerry by 3.5 million votes and garnered the greatest vote total in history. Also, Republicans strengthened their hold on the U.S. Senate and U.S. House. Unlike 2000, the president and his party have earned a mandate for their agenda.

n Routt County results showed strong support for Democratic candidates, even though registered Republicans outnumber Democrats here. Every Democrat facing a Republican won the county with the exception of state House candidate Sam Robinson, who was beaten by incumbent Al White as expected. Still, Routt County won't have a viable two-party system until the county's Democrats start consistently identifying and running candidates for local office. Doug Monger remains the county's only Democratic officeholder.

n Monger and fellow Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak have been heavily criticized throughout the year, particularly for their decision regarding where to build the county's new justice center. But both garnered more than 60 percent of the vote in their re-election bids. That's pretty strong validation of the work they have done and the decisions they have made.

n In what may have been the biggest surprise of the election, Democrats seized control of the state House and Senate for the first time in 45 years. But Democrats should temper their celebration. Their margins are thin and their challenges great. Most significantly, the onus is on Democrats to do what Republicans could not -- lead meaningful and bipartisan reform that will cure the state's annual financial woes.

n We opposed Amendment 35, the increase in tobacco taxes, because we did not think it belonged in the state's Constitution. Neither did the state's lawmakers.

But state legislators have only themselves to blame for 35's passage. Shamefully, Colorado had the lowest tobacco taxes in the nation, something legislators had ample opportunity to correct, generating new revenue for the state. But their refusal to stand up to tobacco companies left the door open for a group such as Citizens for a Healthier Colorado to win approval for Amendment 35.

Many had expected Tuesday's election to be historic for all the wrong reasons. They anticipated the closest presidential race in history, one that would have to be sorted out by the courts or the U.S. House.

Instead, Tuesday's election was historic for all the right reasons. The voter apathy that has plagued so many previous elections disappeared, and concerns about voter fraud and disenfranchisement never materialized. Democracy won out, and that's a win for all of us.

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