by Rick Langenberg:
More changes expected
The Woodland Park Public Library is a great place for holding meetings, borrowing books and CDs and using computers, but it’s a lousy place to cast ballots during an extremely hectic election day, according to Teller consultants. As a result, the Rampart Regional Library (218 E. Midland Avenue) has received the axe as a designated vote center and been replaced by the Ute Pass Cultural Center, located nearby. And based on projected trends, the Cultural Center will become the premiere place in Teller County where local voters will cast their tallies on Nov. 6. According to preliminary projections, the upcoming election could generate a 90 percent-plus participation rate of active voters in Teller County.
In addition, voters will have more time to cast ballots, prior to the election D-Day, than what was allowed in recent elections. These are some of the preliminary election changes in the new rules governing the upcoming presidential contest in Teller County. In one of their first major official acts since the state ordered an overhaul of Teller County’s election system, the county commissioners last week approved new election center sites for the Nov. 6 presidential vote, and agreed to extend early voting hours. Both changes were recommended by Al Davidson, an elections consultant hired by Teller County to manage the forthcoming vote. In an earlier memo sent to the commissioners in August, Davidson referred to the Woodland Park Public Library as totally inadequate for handling the expected crowds for the Nov. 6 vote. “At this point, I find we are short of sufficient laptops and voting equipment to handle the expected turnout at the Rampart Regional Library and that the facility there is inadequate in space and parking for the anticipated turnout,” said Davidson.
Davidson, the former deputy clerk for Arapahoe County, cited a spree of other potential problems relating to overall election-related resources. As the first major step in rectifying this situation, he recommended an immediate rescinding of an earlier resolution that established designated vote centers that combine polling places. Last week, the commissioners complied with his earlier request and okayed new locations for the Nov. 6 vote. The only big change involves a move to eliminate the Woodland Park Library from the voting equation on Nov. 6 and to use the Ute Pass Cultural Center, instead. That change, though, could prove to be significant, as the main vote center in Woodland Park usually attracts the most traffic. Also, voters can actually cast tallies at the early voting sites on a Saturday (Oct. 27) and later in the evenings on certain days (Tuesday, Oct. 23 and Tuesday, Oct. 27). The other main vote centers, the Centennial Building in Cripple Creek and Summit Elementary in Divide, will remain in place. The library, although getting the shaft for an election-day site, will still be used for early voting.
The other early voting site is located at the main clerk and recorder’s office in the courthouse in Cripple Creek. Early voting officially begins on Oct. 22. On most week days, early voters can use these outlets from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. And on Oct. 23 and Oct. 30, the hours will be extended from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Plus, the county will permit early voting on Oct. 27 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. These changes are just the starting points in a reorganization of the Teller elections department. These changes were prompted by an earlier report by Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler in August that was highly critical of how Teller handled last summer’s primary vote. He basically gave the Teller staff an F-grade for how it dealt with the June 26 primary election. Already, a lawsuit has been filed by a Republican contender for a state representative seat. In a compromise move, the commissioners agreed with a state recommendation to hire an expert elections consultant for a temporary period to oversee the Nov. 6 vote and to help train the Teller staff. These moves aren’t cheap and will cost Teller taxpayers at least an extra $120,000 for the year. Although highly critical of Teller’s election management, Gessler and Davidson have been quite complimentary towards the cooperative attitude of the clerk and recorder’s office. In his earlier memo, Davidson also wants to vastly improve the county’s track record in getting more people to use the mail-in ballot system and to vote prior to election day. “Teller County is among the lowest in the state in the ratio of mail ballot voters to the overall total, with less than 50 percent opting for mail ballots. It appears that no major outreach to the voters to encourage participation by mail ballot has been made recently, and I think many of our voters would take advantage, if offered the opportunity, if for no other reason than to avoid potential lines on election day,” said Davidson. The commissioners and county officials say they want to abide by the consultant’s requests.