Volunteers, left to right, Torey Wodnik, Audrey Kruse, Diane Carter and Beth Wendler seem to be backed by presidential candidate Barack Obama on Monday while urging passing motorists to go vote Monday on the first day of early voting in Steamboat Springs.  The volunteers, who were all with the Obama Campaign, held up signs, including one depicting Obama himself, for Democratic candidates and a few that simply reminded people they could go vote.

Photo by John F. Russell

Volunteers, left to right, Torey Wodnik, Audrey Kruse, Diane Carter and Beth Wendler seem to be backed by presidential candidate Barack Obama on Monday while urging passing motorists to go vote Monday on the first day of early voting in Steamboat Springs. The volunteers, who were all with the Obama Campaign, held up signs, including one depicting Obama himself, for Democratic candidates and a few that simply reminded people they could go vote.

Big turnout for early voting

County's Democratic registrations overtake Republican ones

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Weinland tips

Voting tips from Routt County Clerk and Recorder Kay Weinland

• Mail-in ballots require 59 cents postage when returning. There are designated drop-off sites throughout the county. Drop off you ballot at Yampa Town Hall, Oak Creek Town Hall, Hayden Town Hall, the Clark Store, or the County Clerk's offices. Ballots can be dropped off through Nov. 3. Voters who drop off their ballots on Election Day will have to do so at the Elections Office behind the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory on Lincoln Avenue. All mail-in ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on Election Day.

• Early voting began Monday at the Routt County Courthouse Annex. Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. through Friday. From Oct. 27 to Oct. 31, hours will be extended to 6 p.m. Also, Routt County residents can vote early from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 25 at Oak Creek Town Hall, the Routt County Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall in Hayden and the Courthouse Annex.

• Voters who applied for a mail-in ballot but decided to go to the polls to vote will be required to vote a provisional ballot. If you applied for a mail-in ballot and have not received it, call 870-5558 to check on its status. Verify your voter registration record online at www.govotecolorad... or on the clerk's Web site at www.co.routt.co.u...>

• Go to the polls prepared. The ballot is extremely long and filled with candidate races and many complex issues. Prepare by visiting www.co.routt.co.u... or checking out the Steamboat Pilot & Today's Election Guide, which will be inserted in this Friday's newspaper. Take advantage of sample ballots available throughout the county, on the clerk's Web site, in the county clerk's offices and in the Election Guide.

For more

Watch a broadcast of last week's Routt County candidates forum at 7 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays on Steamboat tv18, and at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sundays leading up to Election Day. Steamboat tv18 is available to all Comcast cable subscribers in the city of Steamboat Springs. The forum featured candidates in the following races: state Senate District 8; state House District 57; 14th Judicial District Attorney; State Board of Education - 3rd Congressional District; U.S. House - 3rd Congressional District.

Almost 400 Routt County residents cast their ballots Monday in what Clerk and Recorder Kay Weinland called the busiest first day of early voting in county history.

A line of early voters stretched into the lobby of the Routt County Courthouse Annex at 11:45 a.m. Monday as several people waited their turn to cast votes using paper ballots or one of seven electronic voting machines.

"We have never seen so many people for the first day of early voting," Weinland said. "It's exciting."

Steamboat resident Bud Romberg said he voted early to avoid the potential for long Election Day lines.

"It's going pretty quickly," Romberg said as he left the polls.

In an effort to get more voters to follow Romberg's example, a group of supporters volunteered in two-hour shifts for a local Barack Obama campaign office and waived signs at the corner of Third Street and Lincoln Avenue.

"Last time, the lines were so long, and it discouraged people," said volunteer Beth Wendler, referring to a 2006 election that saw Routt County voters delayed for as long as four hours because of long lines and difficulties with the county's electronic voting machines. "We need people to be psyched about voting and not discouraged."

In addition to the record set Monday, Weinland said the county is crushing its previous numbers for mail-in voting. Weinland said 6,383 mail-in ballots have been issued, a number that continues to climb. In 2004 1,800 mail-in ballots were issued, with 1,687 returned. The total combined number of early and mail-in votes in 2004 was 4,080. In 2000, it was 3,556.

The number of registered voters in Routt County also is on the rise, and party affiliations show a leftward trend. While a plurality of Routt County registered voters remain unaffiliated, Democratic registrations have overtaken Republican ones in the historically conservative county, by a count of 5,346 to 5,290. Weinland said there were more Republican registrations than Democratic ones as recently as the Aug. 12 primary election.

With just two weeks until the Nov. 4 presidential election, activists on both sides are working hard to hold voter interest as polls show Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., with a modest lead over Republican candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. A recent Quinnipiac University/Wall Street Journal/Washingtonpost.com poll shows Obama with a lead of at least 8 points in four swing states, including Colorado. The poll has a three-point margin of error.

"Sen. Obama's leads in these four battleground states are as large as they have been the entire campaign," Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said in a news release. "Those margins may be insurmountable barring a reversal that has never been seen before in the modern era in which polling monitors public opinion throughout the campaign. : The key to winning elections in Colorado is independent voters, and Sen. Obama has blown open the race there with his 11-point lead among them."

Topher Simon, deputy field organizer at the Obama office in Steamboat Springs, said he is "absolutely" concerned that supporters might get overly confident and complacent.

"We've had our number of volunteers drop a little bit in recent weeks," Simon said. "Some people have said the economy's doing the work for us, and we disagree. : After all the work we've done, this is not the time to stop."

Carol O'Hare, lead volunteer at a McCain campaign office in downtown Steamboat Springs, did not return a message left on her cell phone Monday. Last week, O'Hare said poll numbers would not affect the office's plans to hand out materials, walk door to door and make calls for the campaign.

"Elections can change on a dime," O'Hare said last week. "I think it's going to be a great race right to the end."

Routt County voted for Republican George W. Bush over Democratic challenger Al Gore by 46 percent to 44 percent in 2000. In 2004, Routt County voters chose Democrat John Kerry over Bush by 54 percent to 44 percent.

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