Voter turnout higher than officials expected

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— Routt County Clerk and Recorder Kay Weinland tends to be optimistic about Election Day participation and the desire of Americans to practice their democratic right to vote.

But even she didn't expect such a high turnout from Routt County voters during Tuesday's election.

What is thought to be a record number of voters for an odd-year election cast ballots throughout the county.

The high number of voters caught Weinland and her staff somewhat off guard -- several precincts ran out of ballots Tuesday afternoon. Clerk's Office staff, however, was able to secure more ballots and redistribute them in Yampa, Clark, Hayden and Steamboat Springs.

"It just made for a little bit longer night than we anticipated," Weinland said Wednesday. "The main thing is that everyone who wanted to vote got to and got their vote counted."

About 6,700 county residents voted Tuesday. The total turnout was 35 percent higher than turnout in 2003, the most recent odd-year election. Among the county's active voters, turnout was 55 percent, Weinland said.

Several factors may have contributed to the high turnout, Weinland said.

Candidates did a good job of getting out the vote, she said, and many county and city residents felt strongly about one or more of the issues that appeared on Tuesday's ballot.

"And I just think there's a general climate of being more interested and involved, and I hope that's the case," Weinland said. "It just seems like we're getting more and more momentum in terms of voter participation."

Routt County residents weren't alone in their desire to head to the polls and cast ballots.

Likely motivated by referendums C and D, statewide turnout was a little higher than 46 percent, according to unofficial, preliminary figures from the Secretary of State's Office. The record for an odd-year election was 47.2 percent in 2003, when voters overwhelmingly defeated a $2 billion proposal for water projects.

Weinland and her staff must sort through 95 provisional ballots and a couple of absentee ballots, but there aren't enough outstanding ballots to change the outcome of any of the city or county races, Weinland said.

The closest city race was for the Steamboat Springs City Council's at-large seat, in which Towny Anderson defeated Bud Romberg by 143 votes. In Hayden, School Board incumbent Patty Bruchez defeated challenger Jeff Fry by 56 votes.

The county's election results will become official after the votes are canvassed Nov. 14. During the canvass, Weinland and appointed board members will review voting results from all precincts to confirm their accuracy. Weinland described the process as being similar to an audit that certifies everything was counted and conducted correctly.

-- To reach Brent Boyer, call 871-4233 or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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