Election judge Joanna Stanko tells voters about the new electronic voting machines while they waited in long lines at the Steamboat Pilot & Today for the Nov. 7 election. Routt County has appointed a citizens review committee to examine what went wrong on Election Day and how to prevent those problems in future elections.

Photo by Tyler Arroyo

Election judge Joanna Stanko tells voters about the new electronic voting machines while they waited in long lines at the Steamboat Pilot & Today for the Nov. 7 election. Routt County has appointed a citizens review committee to examine what went wrong on Election Day and how to prevent those problems in future elections.

Election panel named

Citizen group to review Nov. 7 debacle, plan for future votes

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— A citizen committee will examine county election procedures and recommend how to avoid a repeat of the problems that plagued the general election.

Thousands of Routt County voters were forced to wait in line for hours to cast ballots Nov. 7 as the county used new electronic voting machines for the first time.

Routt County Clerk and Recorder Kay Weinland announced members of the Citizens' Election Review Committee this week. The bipartisan, 10-member panel includes election judges, party officials and residents from all areas of Routt County. The committee's first meeting, Jan. 10, will kick off a several-month process to create strategies for improving local elections. Steamboat Springs attorney Mark Fischer will chair the committee, which will host public meetings across the county. The committee ultimately will prepare a report of recommendations for the Routt County commissioners.

"I would like to see structures set up so that no one has to wait more than half an hour to vote," Fischer said Thursday. "That would be my goal."

Voters waited for up to four hours in long, sprawling lines, primarily at crowded vote centers in Steamboat Springs. While vote centers in Hayden, North Routt and South Routt were far less crowded than those in Steamboat, many Steamboat voters drove outside of city limits to cast ballots, creating lines and delays across the county.

Mechanical problems shut down several of the county's electronic voting machines for an hour or more throughout the day, further increasing delays and lengthening lines.

Election judges and poll watchers said many people left vote centers without casting a ballot, due to frustration or time constraints.

Fischer was a poll watcher at the Routt County Courthouse Annex, where he said more than 50 people - in less than one hour - left without voting.

"That pained me and it pained Kay (Weinland)," Fischer said. "How can you not feel like whatever we did wrong caused disenfranchisement of voters?"

On the job

Fischer said he looks forward to working with the committee and correcting those wrongs.

"It sounds like a balanced group of concerned citizens that want elections in Routt County to be conducted with fairness and efficiency," he said.

Committee members include longtime League of Women Voters member Barbara DeVries; election judge Shauna Lamansky; Jennifer Schubert-Akin, chair of the Routt County Republican Central Committee; Catherine Carson, one of two Routt County coordinators for the campaign of Democratic Governor-elect Bill Ritter; Hayden resident Medora Fralick; North Routt resident B.J. Vale; Steamboat Springs City Clerk Julie Jordan; and Weinland.

Fischer, 57, is a Democrat who has been involved in county politics for years. The League of Women Voters member has hosted political forums in Hayden and Steamboat, served on the Hayden School Board, is president of The Haven in Hayden and is on the Board of Directors for the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association.

"He has always been very active in trying to provide education for the voters," Weinland said of Fischer. "He has a passion for democracy and he knows how to run a meeting."

Fischer and Weinland said potential strategies include encouraging early or absentee voting and adding larger, more efficient vote centers, especially in Steamboat.

"It's not just about adding more equipment," Weinland said.

A total of 7,845 Routt County voters participated in this year's election. Of those, about 3,800 voted with early or absentee ballots, meaning about 4,000 voters used one of the county's 35 voting machines Nov. 7, at one of eight voting centers in the county.

Weinland said the committee needs a South Routt representative. Interested parties can call Weinland at 870-5556.

To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203

or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

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