Just 13% of Routt County ballots returned week ahead of Election Day | SteamboatToday.com

Just 13% of Routt County ballots returned week ahead of Election Day

Just 13% of ballots sent to Routt County voters for next week’s election have been returned to election officials as of Monday, but that level of turnout — or lack thereof — isn’t uncommon for an off-year election.

Typically, more ballots come in as Election Day approaches, and considering the off-year elections in 2017 and 2019, the final two days of voting is when a deluge of ballots were submitted.

“It’s in line with coordinated election years, so odd years. A lot of times, it’s just slow coming in,” said Routt County Clerk and Recorder Kim Bonner.

As of the end of the day Monday, 2,538 ballots had been returned to the Routt County Elections Division — a small fraction of the 20,000 ballots sent out. In 2017, just over 7,000 people, or 40%, of the electorate submitted a ballot. In 2019, it was higher, with about 9,000, or 50%, of the electorate turning in their vote.

This lower level of turnout is typical in odd-year elections, which in Colorado are generally limited to municipal or local elections, as well as fiscally focused statewide ballot initiatives. In the 2020 election, where voters decided major federal offices like U.S. president, turnout in Routt County was nearly 82%, with 16,381 of the total ballots returned.

“Last year was a little bit better than most years,” Bonner said, referencing last year where there was a national emphasis on mail-in ballots. “People didn’t wait (until) the last two days to turn them around.”

Monday was the last day Bonner was able to send out a mail-in ballot for anyone who registered to vote or made a change with their registration online.

There isn’t an official deadline to mail in a ballot, but Bonner said the general rule is to mail the ballot five days ahead of Election Day, or Wednesday.

“There’s not really a deadline per se — it’s common sense,” Bonner said. “Here, you put it in (the mail), and it goes to Denver and then comes back.”

If voters are unable to make it to the mailbox to send out their ballot, there are several drop boxes spread out across the county. There are 24-hour drop boxes both at the county’s downtown campus, as well as near the Combined Law Enforcement Facility to the west of Steamboat.

Ballots can also be turned in at the Yampa, Oak Creek and Hayden town halls and The Clark Store in North Routt County, but these are only available during the business hours of the location. Ballots can be brought to these locations until 5 p.m. on election night.

With a lesser volume of ballots this year, Bonner said Election Day will look a little different.

In-person, early voting started Monday at the Routt County Historic Courthouse, and voters can fill out either a paper ballot or vote using the voting machine until 7 p.m. Election Day.

Rather than having Election Day voters cast their ballots in the county’s annex building, as has been done in the past, Bonner said they are doing it out of the records office inside the downtown courthouse. This is the only place to vote in person on Election Day in the county.

“The law requires in even years that you have three voter service and polling centers on Election Day, and then in odd years, it’s just one,” Bonner said. “A lot of smaller offices like ours do it in the office.”

Last year, actual Election Day voting was tepid, with people trickling in throughout the day, but in previous years, there have been lines snaking around the annex as people wait to cast their ballots.

“Some people say that’s their social life — going to the polls on Election Day,” Bonner said. “Last year, because of COVID, we didn’t see that at the Christian Center, but in prior years, there can be a line all the way around the hall and out into the parking lot.”

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