Routt County election officials, from left, Eric Bonner, Bruce Lindahl and Barbara Houston do puzzles to pass the time Tuesday during a slow primary election day. By 3 p.m., five people had voted at the courthouse.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Routt County election officials, from left, Eric Bonner, Bruce Lindahl and Barbara Houston do puzzles to pass the time Tuesday during a slow primary election day. By 3 p.m., five people had voted at the courthouse.

Hayden Town Hall saw most voters in primary

Clerk feels prepared for general election despite low turnout

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— It was the same old story as election officials rolled into the Routt County Elections Office on Tuesday night after polls closed in a primary election.

Only 13 voters showed up to vote at the Steamboat Christian Center. Three voters made their way to polls at Centennial Hall, with the last leaving eight hours before the polls closed at 7 p.m. There were 15 voters in Clark. Hayden residents outpaced all others, posting a polling-location high of 33 voters at Hayden Town Hall.

Minus a minor computer error and the occasional eruption of activity, time progressed sleepily at the downtown elections office Tuesday night. But that is unlikely to be the case Nov. 4.

"We won't be reading magazines," Routt County Clerk and Recorder Kay Weinland joked.

Monster turnouts are being predicted for this year's presidential election. Despite the low participation in Tuesday's primary election, which featured only one contested race between two Grand County Republicans vying for state House District 57, Weinland said the county will be ready.

"It would have been better to have more of a turnout for the judges, but the process, setup, equipment familiarity - all of that (went well)," Weinland said. "It was a good trial run for November. It's just experience. It just added one more layer of experience. I regret that we didn't have a greater turnout, but under the circumstances, that was to be expected."

Routt County recently was removed from the Colorado Secretary of State's Election Watch List, after a 2006 general election that saw delays of up to four hours for voters because of difficulties with electronic voting machines and crowded polling locations.

Routt County has taken a number of steps to avoid a similar situation this year. The steps include the purchase of five new electronic voting machines and an aggressive "Don't Wait in '08" early voting campaign. Weinland said she was encouraged by the number of voters who chose to vote electronically rather than by paper ballot Tuesday.

"We had a huge percentage of people vote electronically, which was my hope," said Weinland, who did not yet know the exact percentage. "I think the voters are more and more comfortable with the equipment."

Sixty-five percent of voters voted early and by mail in 2007. With the five additional electronic voting machines, polls in November will have no wait time - on average - if the same percentage of people vote early or by mail-in ballot, according to data prepared by Catherine Carson of the Citizens' Election Review Committee. If only 50 percent of voters vote early or by mail-in ballot, the average wait at polls will be 23 minutes, according to the data.

Tuesday also helped Colorado election officials familiarize themselves with a new statewide voter registration system mandated by the federal government. Weinland said there is a statewide users' group meeting Aug. 26 in Adams County to run through lessons learned about the system.

"Things went well statewide with the system, which is good," Weinland said. "We're getting there. I'm optimistic. But I'm an optimist."

- To reach Brandon Gee, call 871-4210

or e-mail bgee@steamboatpilot.com

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