County clerk: Mail-in vote going smoothly

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Election 2009

Visit www.steamboatpilot.com/election2009 for complete coverage of this year's races and issues.

Routt County Clerk Kay Weinland said the all-mail election is going much smoother than previous elections, with only a few questions from voters who have not received their ballots.

Weinland said the mail-in election is "definitely less expensive," too, because of the reduced employee demands and, she said, surprisingly reduced printing and mail costs.

"There is some savings in postage, believe it or not, because we're allowed to do almost all of the mailing at the reduced bulk rate because we're able to send them all at once," she said.

In a typical election, Weinland said the office has to send out absentee ballots as requested and print extra ballots for each step in the process.

"It's like we're having three separate elections" in non-mail elections, she said, because she must print absentee ballots, early voting ballots and polling place ballots, and have enough extras so the office does not run out of ballots at any stage.

There are also different ballots, depending on where people live. This year, there are five ballots based on where in Routt County the voter lives, but they need only be printed once per voter.

Weinland said the mail-in ballot system also saves money because there is no time spent training the nearly 100 volunteers, or setting up and taking down the nine polling places in 18 precincts.

The final cost of this year's election will not be known until mid-November. Weinland said the agencies in the election -the city of Steamboat Springs, the town of Hayden, Steamboat Springs School District, Hayden School District and Eagle County School District - will be billed proportionately to cover the cost of the election. Weinland said the proportions are based on how many items the agency has on the ballot and the number of voters affected.

The mail-in ballots are to be returned in a special envelope with a tab on the back. Clerks said voters must sign the envelope in the space provided on the back, but they are not supposed to pull off the tab. The clerks remove it to verify the signature after receiving the ballot. Ballots won't be disqualified if the voter pulls off the strip covering the signature.

Weinland said the election in 2007, the last odd-year election comparable to this year's vote, had a turnout of 57 percent. The 2008 election had a turnout of 90.33 percent of active voters. Voters are considered active from the time they register until they miss a general election. Weinland said odd-year elections typically have a much lower turnout.

Weinland has said that about 80 percent of active registered voters in Routt County have requested a permanent mail-in ballot.

"There's a variety of ways that a voter can request permanent mail-in status," she said Tuesday night. "The main one is when they apply for an absentee, which is now called a mail-in ballot : there's a box that they can check. There's also a box they can check when they register to vote, or they can notify us. It's very simple, and it's obviously proving to be a very popular alternative."

The main concern Weinland said she has heard from voters is that some have not received their ballot.

"If they haven't gotten their ballots yet, they really should be contacting us," she said.

Voters can visit the Clerk's Office in the old courthouse in the 500 block of Lincoln Avenue to request a new ballot and to update their address. Forms to update addresses and to request new ballots also can be downloaded at the clerk's Web site, accessible through www.co.routt.co.us, but those forms must be accompanied by a signature.

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