Mix-up allows outsiders to vote on Basalt issues
November 7, 2002
Maybe Basalt hasn’t seen the last of the term limits debate after all ? thanks to an election day foul-up.
An undetermined number of voters who live in unincorporated Eagle County were given the wrong ballots and allowed to vote on Basalt issues, according to Eagle County Clerk and Recorder Sara Fisher.
The mix-up occurred in Precinct 24, which includes portions of western Basalt and areas outside of the town, such as Sopris Village and Summit Vista.
Two distinct ballots existed. Basalt residents were given one that included two questions exclusive to the town. One asked if the town should go to a home rule style of government. The other asked if term limits for Town Council members should be eliminated.
When a voter came to the polling place Tuesday, the judges were supposed to refer to a sheet of paper that determined which ballot type the voter should receive.
The judges reported to the clerk’s office Tuesday afternoon that the wrong ballots had been given to some voters outside the town, according to Damon Baillie, deputy clerk for elections. The ballots allowed the residents to vote on Basalt issues when they shouldn’t have been allowed. He said he wasn’t sure if the judges caught the mistake themselves or if it was reported by a voter.
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Baillie hoped to determine by today how many incorrect ballots were issued. Fortunately, the standard practice for judges was to write the ballot type given to each voter.
The results could potentially affect one of the two Basalt ballot questions. Baillie said 234 voters came to the polling place from Precinct 24. Of those voters, 90 were from the town and 144 were from unincorporated Eagle County.
Election officials know that not everyone received the wrong ballots among the 144 from outside the town, but the exact number is to be determined.
Basalt’s home rule ballot issue won handily ? 608 in favor to 210 against. Therefore, the ballot snafu couldn’t change the results.
But the difference in the term limits issue is within the possible margin of error. In that question, 466 voters wanted to keep term limits in place while 351 voted to eliminate them. That is a difference of 115.
Fisher said her office will prepare a report on the fouled-up ballots and let Basalt officials decide how to proceed.
Some Basalt officials just want the issue to go away. Town Councilwoman Anne Freedman, a supporter of home rule and eliminated term limits, said she would be inclined to let the results stand and move on with results.
“I think it’s really important to get along with Home Rule,” she said. It is scheduled to be implemented Jan. 1. She didn’t want a question on term limits, which would be part of the home rule charter, to delay its implementation.
[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]