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Early voting popular in Roaring Fork Valley

An impressive share of Roaring Fork Valley voters have heeded advice to tackle the lengthy ballot early rather than wrestle with long lines today.

About one-third of voters in Pitkin and Eagle counties cast early or absentee ballots, according to county clerks. Even more got their civic duty out of the way before today in Garfield County.

Eagle County Clerk Sara Fisher said nearly 6,000 residents applied for absentee ballots or voted early out of 17,500 voters on the “active role,” or those who have voted in at least one recent election.

That means about 35 percent of voters voted early.

“That’s right in the ballpark of what we expected,” Fisher said.

Voters no longer have to be traveling or otherwise unable to go the polling place on election day to get an absentee ballot, said Fisher. They can apply to have a ballot sent to them, then take as much time as they want in the comfort of their homes to fill it out.

With a hefty ballot that features everything from the presidential race to multiple proposed amendments to the state constitution, the extra time comes in handy.

In Pitkin County, 1,302 people applied for absentee ballots and 2,131 came to the clerk’s office to cast an early ballot, according to Angela Rishel, election deputy for the clerk’s office.

That’s about 35 percent of the voters on Pitkin County’s “active voter” list of 9,846.

Rishel said that’s an increase from the number of people who voted early or absentee in the last presidential election in 1996. County Clerk Silvia Davis said she anticipated a heavy turnout today, as well.

Rishel noted that Garfield County took out advertisements in local newspapers encouraging voters to take advantage of early voting due to the length of the ballot. She believes that prompted voters in all three counties of the Roaring Fork Valley to vote early.

Garfield County Clerk Mildred Alsdorf said efforts to get voters to cast ballots early were extremely successful. About 46 percent or 9,946 of the county’s 21,600 “active voters” voted early or took ballots home with them.

Early voting was allowed between Oct. 23 and Nov. 3. Absentee ballots could be requested starting Oct. 10.

The rush to vote early affected some campaign styles. Jeffrey Evans of the Common Sense Alliance, one of the more astute campaigners in the valley, started running ads in late September opposing the proposed Rural Transportation Authority for expanded bus-system funding.

The growing popularity of early voting requires people involved in campaigning on issues to try to get their word out earlier, he said.

“I no longer think of election day as election day,” said Evans. Instead, the election period starts about two weeks before election day, he added.


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