Routt County clerk tests online system that sends voters updates on the status of their mail ballots | SteamboatToday.com

Routt County clerk tests online system that sends voters updates on the status of their mail ballots

— Routt County Clerk Kim Bonner told the county commissioners Monday that voters will have the option to take advantage of a test program this fall called Ballot Trail, which will send them messages by voicemail, text or e-mail notifying them of when their mail ballot has been sent out, when it is received at the courthouse and also confirming that it has been counted.

"Any registered voter will be able to sign up for it — they just go into a website and sign up for it," Bonner said. "We could send a message five days before the election (on Nov. 3 this year) and say, ‘We haven't received your ballot yet,' (but only to voters who have opted into the system)."

The service is being offered at no charge to Routt County this election cycle by a company called BallotTrax. The site is currently not live for the 2015 election, but Bonner said when it is, she'll publicize it. The name, Ballot Trail, was chosen by the county clerk's office for Steamboat's test program.

Bonner said Denver and Arapahoe and Adams counties have tried the service.

In the future, should it decide it's worthwhile, the county would be charged three cents per message sent — or, for example, $450 for one message to 15,000 voters.

Commissioner Cari Hermacinski expressed reservations upon first hearing of the program.

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"I don't know. I want to get my supporters onto my system,” Hermacinski said. “I don't know how I feel about taxpayers paying three cents to send messages to voters. I don't like it."

Bonner said it was a matter of her office doing its job to keep the public as informed as possible about the election. She added that it would also potentially save her office the time of answering many phone calls from voters wondering where their ballots are.

"When you think of the election itself, you're wanting to get everyone to turn out you can get to turn out," Bonner said.

Commissioners Doug Monger and Tim Corrigan agreed that because the messaging service requires voters to take the step of registering online, it's likely that a relative minority will take part.

Hermacinski agreed with Bonner that if the messaging system saved staff time while election day was approaching, that would be beneficial.

The fall ballot will be finalized at the end of the work day on Friday, Sept. 4, and while there is still time for a late submittal of a ballot question, Bonner said that's unlikely to happen now.

The Steamboat Springs School District's $92 million bond issue for new schools will require the study of voters in the district.

Another series of related ballot questions will ask voters in Routt County, the city of Steamboat and the towns of Oak Creek and Hayden to opt out of the conditions of a state law that prevents local governments from becoming involved in the service of telecommunications services. Similar measures are being put before voters around the state as a result of frustration of communities and governments with what they deem inadequate telecommunications (broadband) services from private providers.

Easily among the most difficult to understand measures is the state of Colorado's only question on the ballot — Proposition BB.

State Senator Pat Steadman, representing East Denver, described Proposition BB, which would direct $40 million in taxes on marijuana sales to public school construction, this way:

"Unfortunately for the new marijuana taxes approved in 2013, the ‘Blue Book’ that was mailed to voters contained an inaccurate economic forecast, and because of that all of these new taxes collected during the first full year of implementation must be refunded,” Steadman said.

"Our constitution gives voters the power to waive the refund requirement and allow the revenue to be kept and spent,” Steadman explained. “That's why Proposition BB is on the ballot this November. If voters approve then no refund will occur. Instead, the new tax revenue will be kept and spent as voters intended."

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1