Pitkin County beefs up security for mid-term elections
Daily security at the early-voting center and police escorts for election judges are among the measures Pitkin County is taking to beef up security in the lead up to and on Election Day.
As of approximately 2 p.m. Friday, the Pitkin County Clerk & Recorder’s Office had processed about 2,000 of the 2,080 mail-in ballots it had received ahead of the Nov. 8 mid-terms. Roughly 45 individuals had cast their ballot in person, according to Clerk Ingrid Grueter, noting there are approximately 14,000 active registered voters in Pitkin County.
The county has about 50 election judges lined up to work Election Day, she said. Those paid judges must be at least 18 years old, registered to vote, not have any fraud or election offenses, and not have any immediate family running for office, among other criteria. Their responsibilities include greeting and checking in voters, validating voter signatures, processing and counting ballots, and other areas to assist the Pitkin County Elections Department, which is a division of the Clerk & Recorder’s Office.
Results of a Reuters/Ipsos poll released last week found that two out of every five U.S. voters have concerns about violence or voter intimidation and polling places, and another two-thirds are fearful that extremists will retaliate if the election results don’t swing in their favor.
Pitkin County’s Election Department has responded to concerns by having daily security personnel staffed inside its in-person polling place. At the end of Election Day, election judges will receive police escorts to their parked vehicles, Grueter said.
“Our election judges are a little more nervous than they have been in the past,” she said, “so we have hired private security (to work daily), and the people who end up staying here late on election night, Aspen Police officers will walk them to their cars.”
The extra security is a first, she said.
“We’ve never done before,” she said. “We just saw the anxiety with election judges.”
Approximately 16 poll watchers, people who observe the vote tabulation process and report any irregularities they might witness, will be working in Pitkin County on Election Day, Grueter said, noting that the potential for infiltrating poll-watchers has not been a local concern.
She said there also have not been any instances of voter intimidation or threats, but “we’ve had some interesting phone calls that were more election-denier type of phone calls that we’ve tried to nicely educate.”
In July, Pitkin County commissioners adopted an ordinance that temporarily outlaws concealed handguns within 100 feet of polling places, including the Pitkin County Administration and Sheriff’s Office building. The ordinance said the board “believes that the conduct of fair and open elections should be absent any threats or intimidation to the electorate” and that the “BOCC intends to protect its staff, volunteers, and the community, and the BOCC intends to maintain facilities that are safe and free of violence.”
First-time violators face a fine of $50 and up to $1,000 for subsequent infractions. Violators who refuse to leave the premises face jail time of up to six months, according to the ordinance.
Ballots were mailed out Oct. 17, and early voting began Oct. 24 at the Pitkin County Administration and Sheriff’s Office building on East Main Street in Aspen, which also is serving as county’s polling center through Saturday. The Aspen Jewish Community Center on West Main will serve as the polling place on Nov. 7 and Nov. 8 “in order to accommodate for higher turnout,” according to the the website for Pitkin County Elections.
Voters can cast their ballots in person from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Pitkin County building.
In-person voting also will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Nov. 7 and from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 8 at the Aspen Jewish Community Center. Registered voters in Pitkin County also can cast their ballots from from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 8 at the Basalt Regional Library at 14 Midland Ave. and at Snowmass Village Town Hall at 130 Kearns Road.