Steamboat Springs Bob Fry can forget about the days when he had to wait in his van outside of his precinct voting station on Election Day. Unable to make it up the snow-covered wheelchair ramps, Fry recalls having his wife, Connie, bring him paper ballots, which she would help him fill out.
On Wednesday morning, Fry steered his motorized wheelchair straight into the Routt County Courthouse Annex conference room to cast his early vote for next Tuesday's primary election.
"That was great, it moved really easy," Fry said about his ability to operate the county's new electronic voting machines with the aid of a mouth stick. Fry has limited use of his arms and hands.
Routt County Clerk and Recorder Kay Weinland, who said she cast the first vote Monday using the new electronic system, also was pleased with Fry's seamless access and use of the new machines.
The machines are equipped with audio ballot readers and meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
"This is real progress," Weinland said about the county's entire revamped voting system, which allows voters to choose between eight voting center locations throughout the county regardless of which precinct they live in. "With the old system, on election night, the staff would be here until the wee hours of the morning counting ballots."
With 35 new voting machines distributed among the polling centers, Weinland predicted she no longer will lose sleep worrying whether enough paper ballots were printed.
Now the vote totals will be tallied after the memory sticks from the electronic voting machines are collected and dropped off at the courthouse.
"These machines have been tested and retested. I have total faith in this system," Weinland said.
The five voting machines in the Routt County Courthouse Annex conference room will remain up and running for early voting in the primary election from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. today and Friday.