Hayden ballot question votes could prompt automatic recounts

Election judges, from right, Paul Stettner, Clair Erickson and Jim Baker process ballots inside the Routt County Courthouse annex on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

By far, the closest vote margins for the Nov. 7 election in Routt County came over two ballot questions proposed in the town of Hayden.

According to the unofficial election results produced by office of the Routt County Clerk, ballot question 2D asked residents to adjust the town’s charter language to give the Town Manager permission to appoint a Finance Director, instead of following a public process leaving the decision to Town Council. The proposed measure failed by four votes: 234 to 230.

Another ballot question, 2E, asked Hayden voters to change the minimum number of days a resident could reside in the town before voting from 30 to 22 days. The question failed to be passed by a two-vote margin: 238-237.

Under Colorado election law, any vote separated by a less one-half of a percentage point mandates an automatic recount.

Routt County Clerk Jenny Thomas noted the current results for Hayden could change after her staff run the final ballot count this Thursday.

When that happens, the new count will include eight ballots that were initially held back by election judges over discrepancies in signatures. Those eight have since been confirmed — or “cured” — by those registered voters who sent them in, according to Thomas, but an additional three ballots held by election judges remain to be corrected.

“There’s two discrepant signatures and one missing so those voters, we have notified them via mail so now they have the opportunity to cure that, if they do and we are able to accept those ballots and those will also be added into that batch for our final scan on Thursday,” Thomas said. “We won’t know if we are going to have a mandatory recount until after we scan on Thursday.”

Hayden Town Manager Matthew Mendisco cannot tell why the votes were so close. But, in any event, he is certain over their outcomes.

“I always just respect an election process and the will of the people more than anything else,” Mendisco said two days after the initial election results came in. “That is just a fantastic way to gauge how the public is feeling about certain things.”

Regarding ballot question 2D, Mendisco said the town currently does not employ a finance director, he fills that role himself. Instead, the town has a finance manager and hires an independent firm to perform the duties. He said the ballot question was meant to streamline any future hiring process should the town ever need to hire a finance director, or promote the current finance manager to the position.

“They are managing public funds, but ultimately the Town Manager is responsible for the budget and everything else in the charter anyway, so it was just an effort to avoid and say let’s let our finance manager be able to do the promoting without a public process,” Mendisco said.

On the 2E ballot question, Mendisco said the proposition attempted to align the town’s charter with the state of Colorado’s recently changed election code stipulating that voters must be residents of a municipality for 22 days before an election to vote.

“Our charter says that the minimum that you had to have rented or lived in the town of Hayden is 30 days and the (state’s) election code has moved that requirement down to 22 days,” Mendisco said. “However, 30 days doesn’t mean we are out of compliance. If the election law went to 35 days, we couldn’t have been at 30, so it would have changed automatically.”

A third question on the Hayden ballot is not at risk for a recount. It asked voters to decide on an amendment to the town’s charter regarding the process for declaring an official vacancy to an elected seat, in the event that an elected official is removed from office or becomes a non-resident — or, when they are convicted of a felony or misdemeanor offense for abuse of public office, or leave their post vacant for any other reason.

The measure passed 372 to 109.

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