Open space rallies to win in Eagle County | AspenTimes.com

Open space rallies to win in Eagle County

The creation of an open space program scored a come-from-behind victory in Eagle County yesterday.

The final tally of all votes showed that a property tax hike to buy and preserve open space won by a vote of 5,658 to 5,607, or 50.23 to 49.77 percent.

The proposal had trailed by two votes after the election on Nov. 5. However, 373 “provisional” ballots were counted for the first time yesterday, as required by state law. Another 12 absentee ballots that were uncounted on Election Day were also counted, according to Eagle County Clerk Sara Fisher.

Those 385 ballots swung the election for the open space program.

“It’s better to come from two votes down to 51 votes up,” said Andy Wiessner in a major understatement. He helped organize the campaign for the open space program.

“Everybody’s thrilled, absolutely thrilled,” he said.

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Open space proponents said it was “torture” waiting nine days after the election for the final count. But they didn’t mind Thursday. “I’ll take that torture any day for that type of result,” said Wiessner.

The provisional ballots were cast by people who didn’t show up on the voter registration books or had some other question surrounding their voting status on Election Day. They were issued provisional ballots but they weren’t counted until each voter’s eligibility could be verified.

Approval of the open space program will add 1.5 mills onto property tax bills. That will add about $14 in taxes per $100,000 of home value.

Eagle County will create an open space board which will advise the county commissioners on land purchases.

The Canvass Board yesterday also certified results that are known to be flawed on two Basalt election questions.

Election judges issued the wrong ballots in Precinct 24 on Election Day. That precinct includes residents of West Basalt as well as residents of unincorporated Eagle County.

Some residents who live outside of Basalt were given the wrong ballots and allowed to vote on town issues, Fisher said. Some Basalt voters may not have received ballots that allowed them to vote on the town issues, she said.

The mix-up would not affect the outcome of one ballot question. A proposal to switch to a home rule style of government won by a commanding 74 percent to 26 percent margin.

The outcome was tighter on a question asking if term limits for Basalt’s elected officials should be retained or eliminated. Voters decided to keep limits by a 115-vote margin.

Fisher said it is possible that the Election Day snafu with ballots altered the result. However, based on the direction given by the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, the Canvass Board decided to certify the results.

Fisher said Basalt officials must decide if they want to live with the results of the term limits question or hold another election.