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Make your vote count in Pitkin County

Katie Redding
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” Janice Vos Caudill, the Pitkin County clerk and recorder, doesn’t hesitate when asked what residents can do to make sure their votes count in the November election. She has a running list in her head.

“It’s imperative that they update their address, so they vote on the right issues,” she begins, explaining that ballots vary by district.

And with Colorado’s swing-state status, officials are imploring voters to show up to the ballot box with the necessary information.

While all voters can cast a ballot, those who show up in the wrong precinct or without identification may have to cast a provisional ballot, Vos Caudill said.

Provisional ballots will be judged after the election, and will be counted if the voter is deemed valid, she said. Generally, provisional voters have to return with information to “correct the situation,” such as identification or proof of address. The evidence is then judged by a bipartisan board within a short period of time after the election, Vos Caudill said. If the voter is deemed valid, the ballot is opened and counted.

But voting advocates recommend that voters avoid casting a provisional ballot whenever possible, since rarely are all provisional ballots accepted.

In the 2004 presidential election, Pitkin County accepted 62 percent of provisional ballots, according to Vos Caudill’s data. In the 2006 election, it accepted 75 percent of the ballots in question.

After election day, provisional voters can visit the secretary of state’s website at http://www.sos.state. co.us, to see if their provisional ballot was accepted or rejected.

To avoid casting a provisional ballot, read on:

Check your voter registration information to ensure it is correct by going to aspenpitkin.com, clicking on the “VOTE ’08” license plate, and following the directions from there.

Voters who show up to early voting at the county clerk’s office with an outdated address can update it at the office before they vote.

On Nov. 4, voters will be given two options. They can visit the clerk’s office to update their address and then return to their polling place (or to a new one, if their new address places them in a different precinct).

Or they can cast a provisional ballot, which will be reviewed after the election, though votes on some local issues may not count if the citizen voted in the wrong precinct for incorrect issues or candidates.

Voters also need to show up with valid identification. A variety of things count as identification ” everything from a passport to a utility bill ” but there are a few rules. The identification is not required to have an address, but if it does have one, the address must be a Colorado address (the address does not have to be the voter’s present Colorado address). It also does not have to have a photograph on it, unless it is the kind of identification that should have a photograph on it, such as a student ID. or a driver’s license.

Voters also need to show up during voting hours: On Wednesday, voters can vote early at the Pitkin County Courthouse from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and on Thursday and Friday they can vote early at the courthouse from 8:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. There is no early voting on Saturday, Sunday or Monday. On Tuesday, voters can vote at their precinct from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m., and all voters in line at 7 p.m. must be allowed to vote. But Vos Caudill stresses that the busiest times will be morning, noon and evening ” and asks anyone who can come mid-morning or mid-afternoon to do so.

Voters should study the ballot beforehand ” and perhaps bring a “cheat sheet.” Judges will enforce the 15-minute time limit unless the voter is disabled, according to Vos Caudill.

The first thing to know about a mail-in ballot is that voters who requested one may not simply decide to go vote at the polls instead. If they do, they will be asked to vote a provisional ballot. If you have requested a mail-in ballot and have not received one, contact the county clerk’s office immediately.

Mail-in ballots must be signed, and first time voters who registered to vote by mail voters must include a photocopy of a valid ID.

Mail-in ballots require a 59-cent stamp (though the local post office will forward ballots with inadequate postage, and the difference will be paid by the county clerk’s office). They can also be brought to the county clerk’s office. Do not bring them to the polls on Tuesday, as they will not be turned over to the county clerk’s office in time to be counted.

Mail-in ballots must be received by the county clerk’s office by 7 p.m. on Nov. 4 in order to be counted. Ballots postmarked Nov. 4 will not be counted. Voters can see whether or not their mail-in ballot was counted by going to website of the Colorado Secretary of State.

Unsigned mail-in ballots or those without the proper identification will become provisional ballots, said Vos Caudill. Voters will be contacted after the election to fix the error so that their ballots can be judged.

Vos Caudill also warns voters never to allow someone else to sign their ballot. She explained said that sometimes parents fill out and sign ballots for children away at college, or children fill out and sign ballots for elderly parents. However, the county clerk’s office compares all signatures on mail-in ballots with the voter’s signature from his or her application on file. If the signatures absolutely do not match, she said, the ballot could be thrown out.

Complete and timely mail-in ballots are counted as they are received, and the totals are released on election night along with results from regular and early voting.

kredding@aspentimes.com


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