County supports adding voting machines, centers

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— County officials expressed support this week for proposals to improve future Routt County elections.

The Routt County Citizens Election Review Committee, led by local attorney Mark Fischer and Routt County Clerk and Recorder Kay Weinland, formally presented its recommendations to the Routt County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday. Topping the list is the purchase of 20 new electronic voting machines this year, with a potential purchase of 15 more voting machines before the 2008 election. The new machines would be spread among vote centers throughout Routt County, including new vote centers at sites including Centennial Hall and the Steamboat Springs High School gymnasium.

Commissioners asked county staff to research bids and prepare a formal budget request for the voting machines.

As a result of Routt County's November 2006 election, which saw hundreds of local voters wait for hours in massive lines due to overcrowded vote centers and malfunctioning electronic voting machines, Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman placed Routt County on the state's Election Watch List earlier this month. Four other counties - Denver, Montrose, Douglas and Pueblo - also are on the watch list, which carries no immediate penalties or ramifications but could result in state supervision of future elections.

Weinland formed the citizen committee shortly after the election to ensure November's delays are not repeated.

In addition to the additional machines and vote centers, the committee also recommended county commissioners expand early voting hours; raise awareness of mail-in voting; increase staffing and training of election judges at vote centers; and have a Hart InterCivic technician available solely to Routt County. Hart InterCivic manufactures the county's electronic voting machines.

"We were very pleased with the work that group put in," Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush said of the committee. "These are very good recommendations."

Mitsch Bush said formal votes by the commissioners will be made in coming months, as budget and action requests come forward.

"We're starting off with machines and space, and then moving into the cost of staff time that will be required for the public education and outreach," Mitsch Bush said.

Also this week, Weinland announced the Clerk and Recorder's office has completed a multi-year project to place electronic images of Routt County real estate documents from as far back as 1887 on microfilm for easier access and reference.

"It's a huge step forward for e-government," Weinland said. "It's very exciting."

County recording supervisor Tina Fry also announced the department is now accepting electronic recording of real estate transactions, eliminating the need for paper documents.

"It's a lot more efficient for our department," Fry said.

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