Voting precints redrawn

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The Routt County Clerk's Office has rearranged voting precincts, but the changes should have little effects on future voting.

For the past three months, the clerk's office has worked to redraw precinct lines, which have not changed in 20 years. The clerk's office eliminated polling locations in Milner, Toponas and Phippsburg.

The Slater precinct, north of Clark, also was removed. A new precinct was added in the Stagecoach area. The precincts dividing the western part of the county were redrawn to run in line with U.S. Highway 40.

All the precincts also were renumbered, running north to south, with the city of Steamboat Springs numbered last. The system will allow the precinct numbers to remain consecutive if they need to be split or added because of growth in the Steamboat area.

County Clerk Kay Weinland said the new precincts would not change county commissioner, special district or City Council boundaries.

"It makes sense to combine as many low-voter-registration precincts as possible," Weinland said.

The commissioners ap----proved the redrawn precinct lines this week.

The lack of polling locations accessible to those with disabilities, which is a requirement under the Help America Vote Act, was one of the reasons for eliminating the Milner, Phippsburg and Toponas precincts, Weinland said. Slater already was a precinct that voted with absentee ballots.

The Help America Vote Act requires all polling locations to have at least one touch-screen voting machine, which would have been a financial strain for precincts with very low voter numbers.

Weinland noted that many of the voters in the eliminated precincts voted early or with mail-in ballots.

"Fewer and fewer are going to their actual precinct polling locations," Weinland said.

The Milner precinct has been split between the two Hayden precincts, which is where residents will go to vote. Two precincts were reconfigured in the south end of the county so those in Phippsburg will vote in Oak Creek.

The Toponas precinct has been combined with Yampa, and the Slater precinct has been added to the one in Clark.

Registered voters will rec--eive notification of their new precincts and polling locations before the next election, Weinland said.

For the 2005 elections, the polling places are combined, and those polling locations that were eliminated would have been combined with polling locations that have larger voter turnouts.

In 2006, the county hopes to institute a voting system where there would be fewer places to vote, but residents could vote at any voting center in the county.

In the current system, residents can vote only at their precincts on voting day. Weinland said the county aims to have four voting centers in Steamboat, and one each in Hayden, Oak Creek, Yampa and possibly Clark.

Voting centers would work similar to early voting, where voters need to have their precinct number and then vote on the corresponding ballot. Each voting center would have access to all the ballots in the county. Commissioners have been supportive of the voting centers, Weinland said.

"I am very excited," she said. "It is such a good thing for voters in Routt County."

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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