A primer on Pitkin County’s primary
ASPEN – Any registered voter in Pitkin County can vote for any candidate for county office, regardless of party affiliation.
In that respect, Pitkin County is different than any other county in the state of Colorado, according to Dwight Shellman III, elections manager for the county Clerk and Recorder’s Office. The open system has been but one source of confusion among local voters heading into the Aug. 10 primary, even though the county has a long history of allowing all voters to cast a primary ballot for local candidates, regardless of either the voter’s or the candidate’s party affiliation.
“I think it’s confusing because we haven’t had a contested [primary] race for a county office since 2004,” Shellman said. “I think, you know, the problem is people come here from statutory counties where this is totally weird.”
Pitkin County’s home-rule charter sets a different set of rules, while other counties follow state law.
The county will use four different ballots on Aug. 10, and every one of them will let the voter make a selection in both the race for the District 1 county commissioner seat (there are five candidates) and the sheriff’s race, where there will be four candidates on the ballot, but one – Hugh Zuker – has withdrawn.
“His name is on the ballot, but votes cast for him are invalid and won’t be counted,” Shellman said.
All paper ballots will contain Zuker’s name, because he withdrew from the race too late for it to be removed, but voters who use touch-screen machines at the polls won’t find Zuker listed among the sheriff candidates, Shellman clarified.
Incidentally, though commissioners represent different districts, they are elected at large, which means voters throughout the county can vote for a candidate running for the District 1 seat in the upcoming primary.
As for the four ballot types: There are ballots for unaffiliated voters, along with registered Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians. While the commissioner and sheriff’s races appear on each of them, the party ballots only allow voters registered with those parties to cast votes in primaries for federal and state offices. For example, only registered Republicans will receive the Republican ballot, allowing them to cast a vote in the GOP primary for the Colorado governor’s race, in which Dan Maes and Scott McInnis are candidates. (FYI: It’s too late to change one’s party affiliation for the primary.)
The fact that there will be polling places for the election has been another source of confusion for voters. Many Colorado counties are conducting exclusively a mail-in election on Aug. 10. In Pitkin County, only voters who have arranged to receive a mail-in ballot have received one.
“If you don’t have an active request on file, then you’re a polling place voter,” Shellman said.
The clerk’s office will send a ballot to those who want one if they make the request by Aug. 3. A voter can pick up a mail-in ballot at the clerk’s office in Aspen until Aug. 6, or make a request at http://www.pitkinvotes.org. All mail-in ballots must be returned to the Clerk and Recorder’s Office by 7 p.m. on Aug. 10; postmarks don’t count.
Those who’d like to cast a ballot in person, in advance, can do so during early voting – Aug. 2-6, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily in the county commissioners’ meeting room at the courthouse annex in Aspen (commissioners are meeting in the fire station for the duration of election season).
For Election Day, several precinct polling places have been combined. Voters in precincts 1-4 will vote in the Rio Grande meeting room in Aspen; polling for precincts 5 and 7 will take place at the Shultz Health and Human Services building near the hospital; precinct 6 voters should head to Snowmass Village Town Hall; precincts 8 and 9 have been combined with a single polling place at St. Peters of the Valley Episcopal Church in Basalt; and voters in precinct 10 will cast ballots at the Church of Redstone.
Don’t know what precinct you’re in? Go to http://www.pitkinvotes.org for that and virtually anything else you want to know about the election. In addition, the website will be streaming results, live, on election night, according to Shellman.
A final reminder from Shellman: Fill in the ballot correctly. Use blue or black ink to completely fill in the oval next to a candidate’s name. The computer system used to scan the ballots won’t read check marks or an X in the oval (filling in the oval with red ink, green ink or pencil won’t work, either).
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