1st all-mail partisan election looks like a winner at the polls | SteamboatToday.com

1st all-mail partisan election looks like a winner at the polls

A Routt Country resident braved the elements to drop off her ballot outside the Routt County Courthouse's annex building in 2014.
John F. Russell

— Early returns from Routt County’s first all-mail ballot partisan election reflect a win in terms of voter turnout for a midterm election featuring gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races.

Routt County Elections Supervisor Kim Bonner confirmed that as of about 1:30 p.m. Monday, 7,746 ballots, representing 50 percent of eligible voters, had been cast. There are 15,400 registered voters in the county.

That compares favorably with 2010, the most recent midterm election, when 5,376 of about 13,000 registered voters, or 41 percent, had voted by midafternoon on the day before the polls closed.

But this year’s numbers are actually more favorable than revealed at first glance.

County Clerk Kay Weinland said she counted only active voters (those who had cast a ballot in the last election) in her total of 13,000 in 2010. This year’s total of 15,400 registered voters is effectively inflated over 2010 totals by 1,767 voters who were inactive in the 2013 election.

“It’s going to be even better by tonight,” Weinland said about the preliminary turnout numbers. “We just collected a round from our drop boxes in Oak Creek, Clark, Hayden and Yampa, and we’ve been getting a couple hundred from our drive-up drop box outside the courthouse every two hours.”

Unlike this election, the 2010 Routt County ballot did not include a contested county commissioner’s race like this year’s face-off between appointed Democratic incumbent Steve Ivancie and Republican challenger Cari Hermacinski — both are former Steamboat Springs City Council members. Ivancie was appointed to the commissioner’s seat by the local Democratic Party in 2012 to fill the balance of Diane Mitsch Bush’s term after voters sent her to the state Legislature.

However, 2010 also had a strong draw in the form of a contested Routt County sheriff’s race — Garrett Wiggins, who is running unopposed for re-election this fall, unseated incumbent Gary Wall in 2010.

One of the least appreciated aspects of Routt County elections is the role that unaffiliated voters play in the outcome.

The numbers of Elephants and Donkeys in Routt County are within 150 of one another — there are 4,385 registered Democrats and 4,528 registered Republicans. But there are more unaffiliated voters — 6,143 — than there are voters affiliated with either party.

And although this election is the first of its kind here, as far as partisan elections go, there is precedence for a significant share of the voters coming out in the final two days of voting.

In the 2013 city council and school board elections, which included a lengthy slate of ballot questions, 40 percent of the ballots were cast Monday and Tuesday.

The Voter Service and Polling Center in the Routt County Courthouse in Steamboat Springs, as well as VSPCs at the Hayden and Oak Creek town halls, are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Election Day.

This is the last election Weinland will preside over before she retires in early January. Bonner is the presumed new Routt County clerk. She is running unopposed to replace Weinland.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1 .

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