Little confusion, higher turnout with mail ballots | AspenTimes.com

Little confusion, higher turnout with mail ballots

John Colson

Mail-only elections in Garfield and Eagle counties apparently caused little confusion and may have helped raise voter turnout.Officials reported only a small number of voters in Garfield and Eagle counties puzzled about what to do and where to go in this week’s mail-only election process, a method that’s gaining in popularity across the state and nation.”We had a few people upset,” Garfield County Clerk Mildred Alsdorf said. “I would say we didn’t have more than half a dozen.” And most of those, she said, were at the satellite clerk’s office in Rifle.Alsdorf said about 250 of the 1,500 voters who came into the clerk’s office either in Rifle or the main courthouse in Glenwood Springs were there to request replacement ballots or because they had moved and never received their ballots in the mail. The rest were there to drop off their ballots instead of mailing them.In Carbondale, according to receptionist Shandey Page, there were a few confused voters. But Town Clerk Marcia Walter said there were fewer than six.She said most of those who came in were “thinking it was an either-or option” to vote by mail or go to the polling place. “I told them, ‘Sorry, it’s a mail ballot,'” and that they had to go to the county clerk’s office in Glenwood Springs to get a replacement ballot.In Eagle County, where the ballot also was mail-only, Clerk Teak Simonton said the result was similar to that in Garfield County.”There was some confusion,” she said.”There were several hundred voters who asked, ‘What is a mail-in ballot?'” she said. “There was a very small group of voters that wasn’t aware of what was going on.”At Basalt’s Town Hall, one of the places where Eagle County voters in the Roaring Fork Valley are used to going on election day, very few voters showed up in confusion.”I had, like, two,” said Town Clerk Pam Schilling. She said she sent them to the Eagle County Community Center in El Jebel to pick up replacement ballots.This was Simonton’s first time managing a mail-only election, she said. She estimated the costs were about 20 percent lower than a polling-place election.And, she said, “Logistically, I think it’s easier for the voter,” which could be part of the reason both Eagle and Garfield counties had better voter turnout than Pitkin County. Eagle and Garfield turnout was 43 percent and 45 percent, respectively. Pitkin’s was 29 percent.”Mail-in always gets a better turnout in odd-year elections,” Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder Silvia Davis said. Pitkin County’s one attempt at a mail-only election in the mid-1990s resulted in a fair number of complaints from voters. The county has since relied primarily on Election Day polling. John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com

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