Voters new and old gather to view results | AspenTimes.com
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Voters new and old gather to view results

Naomi Havlen
Political enthusiasts, including Aspen Mayor Helen Klanderud, center, react to a TV report during the Sky Hotel's election party Tuesday night. Aspen Times photo/Mark Fox.
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It was a quiet, cold election night in Aspen, with more noise from snowmaking guns on the mountain than cheers in local bars.Bentley’s was half full, with all of the televisions tuned in to national election coverage. A table of locals watching the coverage over a round of beers commiserated that while the presidential race was a little too close for their liking, they were happy to celebrate the end of election season – the advertisements, the pundits and the pollsters.”It was kind of like changing the deck chairs on the Titanic,” said Tom Knutsen, 36. “So many people are voting right now for the first time, and I hope they don’t get disheartened by all of this.”Knutsen’s friend, 29-year-old Sasha Berg said she would be glad that recorded messages on her answering machines from people telling her who to vote for would now stop.

Only three customers lingered to watch election coverage inside New York Pizza, where co-owner Earl Rodgers manned the counter and said walk-in business had been slow, but deliveries were up from people watching the coverage on their own couches. Rodger’s theory that Democrats order vegetarian toppings and Republicans order meat toppings has yet to be proven, he said.The biggest organized gathering in town to celebrate the election was at 39 Degrees, the bar inside the Sky Hotel. Balloons and streamers in red, white and blue decorated the room, and three televisions were set up, showing election coverage on CNN interspersed with local coverage from GrassRoots TV Channel 12.The room full of partygoers perched on chairs and sofas, eyes riveted to the televisions. Tricia McKenzie, a member of the Roaring Fork Peace Coalition, helped organize the party as a part of MTV’s Rock the Vote effort.”We wanted a party to celebrate democracy in action – this is a nonpartisan place to come together,” she said. “I called Rock the Vote 14 months ago to get involved, and started actively registering people to vote at the ESPN X Games.”

McKenzie said she has three daughters ages 20, 19 and 19 who will all be affected by some major decisions at stake in this election. Rock the Vote may appeal to young voters, but McKenzie said she registered a number of much older, first-time voters who feel this year’s election is an important one.Aspen resident Sam Ferguson, 33, said he showed up at the Rock the Vote party both to see who wins the presidential race and to celebrate what’s most likely a record voter turnout. Aspen resident Peter Casson, 23, sat nearby and nodded. “This is the first presidential election I’ve voted in, and I think a lot of people like me are coming out to vote for the first time.”The all-women staff of the Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder’s office was standing around their desks just after the polls closed at 7 p.m., clutching Cokes and bottled water. This is the biggest night of the year in their office, and some of them have been in the office since 7:30 a.m.The excitement is just beginning, but one of the women said she wishes there was a television in the office for them to watch.

“This is like New Year’s Eve without a TV,” she said. “Except this here is like our own reality TV show,” replies another staff member, looking bemused as reporters and other interested residents file in the front door trying to get the latest news.In the back of the room Pitkin County Clerk Silvia Davis is a blur of white hair and a black turtleneck as absentee voting finishes up. When she has a moment to talk, she leans over the office’s counter and looks more relaxed than you might expect.”Things went really well – I went to precincts one through seven and saw short lines of no more than two to three people, so nobody was really waiting to vote,” she said. “The election judges did great at each polling place. I’m really proud of them.”Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com


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