Ballot machine passes test

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On Sunday afternoon, Buck Buckland and Diane Mitsh-Bush arrived at the Routt County Courthouse with a stack of ballots and a sense of duty. Although it took an hour and a half of hand counting ballots to test the accuracy of the voting machine, it was worth it, said Buckland, who observed the test as a representative of the Republican Party. Mitsh-Bush represented the Democrats.

In 2002, Routt County's voting machine was antiquated, Weinland said, and when it malfunctioned on Election Day, parts were no longer available for it. In 2003, Routt County Commissioners leased the ES&S 650 optical scanner. The machine can read 4,000 ballots an hour, said election supervisor Vicki Weber.

"When you see it run, you'll be impressed," County Clerk Kay Weinland said. "We love it." Commissioners are putting off the purchase of a ballot-counting machine for Routt County until all the federal regulations are decided through the Help America Vote Act, expected in 2006.

Buckland and Mitsh-Bush brought 30 completed test ballots, of which there were each of the four ballot styles available to voters in Routt County -- the Steamboat Springs ballot, the Steamboat Springs ballot with the Local Marketing District question, the Routt County ballot and a version of the Routt County ballot with a question from the Craig Rural Fire Protection District.

Buckland and Mitsh-Bush sat behind Weinland's desk in her office where the ES&S 650 machine is being stored behind locked doors to protect it from tampering.

When the ballot-counting machine was tested and proved to be accurate, Weinland and Weber thanked Buckland and Mitsh-Bush and braced themselves for a 20-hour workday Tuesday.

The County Clerk and Recorder's office will begin counting ballots at 2 p.m. Election Day. Weinland estimates that early voter numbers and possibly absentee ballots will be counted by 7:01 p.m.

"Forty-six percent of Routt County voters have already voted," Weinland said. By the time polls closed Friday night, 4,080 people had voted. "We were exhausted."

-- To reach Autumn Phillips call 871-4210

or e-mail aphillips@steamboatpilot.com

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