New precincts confuse voters

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New precinct numbers and combined polling places for the Nov. 1 elections have confused some Routt County residents.

Routt County Clerk Kay Weinland said confused registered voters have been calling her office for clarification since her staff mailed postcards with the new precinct numbers and polling locations.

"We have gotten inundated with phone calls," she said.

The cards, sent earlier this week to all registered voters, give notice that elections are Nov. 1 and identify the recipient's polling location and listed address from the clerk's database.

New state regulations give voters 10-digit numbers that include congressional, Senate, House, county and precinct districts. The last two digits of the number indicate what precinct a voter is in, and those two digits are of particular importance, Weinland said.

Earlier this year, the Clerk's Office redrew precinct boundaries and renumbered them for the first time in 20 years.

The Clerk's Office also eliminated polling locations in Milner, Toponas and Phippsburg.

The Slater precinct, which is north of Clark, also was eliminated. 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 precincts were renumbered, running north to south, with the city of Steamboat Springs numbered last. The system will allow precinct numbers to remain consecutive if they need to be split or added to with future growth.

Because this year's election takes place during an odd-numbered year and doesn't include a presidential or major state contests, Weinland does not anticipate high voter turnout. It made sense to combine polling locations this year because of the anticipated turnout.

The towns and areas surrounding Clark, Hayden, Oak Creek and Yampa have one polling place each. Steamboat has six polling locations.

Friday was the last day for governments to ratify ballot questions. At the local level, residents will be asked to approve property-tax increases to support the expansion of Bud Werner Memorial Library, the purchase of development rights for open space and agricultural land, and for Horizons Specialized Services, which helps people with developmental disabilities. Yampa Valley Regional Housing Authority will ask voters to exempt it from a portion of the Taxpayers Bill of Rights.

The November election also will include Steamboat Springs City Council, Steamboat Springs School Board and Hayden School Board elections.

At the state level, voters will be asked to approve referendums C and D, which would relax the Taxpayers Bill of Rights for five years to allow the state to capture an estimated $3.1 billion in surplus funds.

The election changes made this year by the Clerk's Office are a precursor to major changes that will go into effect for the 2006 elections. Next year, the county hopes to institute a voting system in which there would be fewer places to vote, but residents could vote at any polling place in the county.

"The changes in 2006, it is going to be huge. We are just getting used to the idea that nothing ever is going to remain the same in elections," Weinland said.

In the current system, residents can vote only in their precincts. Weinland said the county is looking at having four voting centers in Steamboat and one each in Hayden, Oak Creek, Yampa and possibly Clark.

Voting centers would work similar to early voting, for which voters need to have their precinct numbers and vote on corresponding ballots. Each voting center would have the different ballots for all county precincts.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229 or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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