Just 19% of ballots returned ahead of Tuesday’s primary election

Ballots need to be received by the Routt County Clerk and Recorder's office by 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 28, to be counted

Steamboat Springs resident Emma Newberger drops off her June primary election ballot at the 24-hour drop box in the alley behind the historic Routt County Courthouse on Monday, June 27, 2022.
Dylan Anderson/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Nearly 3,700 ballots have been returned to the Routt County Clerk and Recorder’s office as of Monday afternoon ahead of Tuesday’s primary election.

It is too late to mail a ballot back for it to be counted, as postmarks have no bearing on whether a ballot is counted or not in Colorado. County Clerk and Recorder Jenny Thomas emphasized that ballots need to be received by her office by the time polls close at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 28.

“It’s more like a trickle and not so much a flood right now,” Thomas said about the pace ballots were being returned on Monday. “Usually when we have the competitive races we definitely see a bigger turnout. With the whole Democratic (Party) ballot being uncontested, that could be part of why we’re just seeing a trickle.”

Just 19% of the 19,277 ballots sent to voters earlier this month have been returned at this point, according to clerk data. The last midterm primary election in 2018 saw about 28% turnout locally, though there were more competitive races in that primary.

Voters can still register to vote on election day, though it is too late to change party affiliation for the primary. Unaffiliated voters are allowed to choose which primary they vote in, but cannot vote in both.

All but one of the local primary races are uncontested, excluding statewide offices like governor. The Republican Party nomination for House District 26 features Glenn Lowe of Eagle and Savannah Wolfson of Oak Creek. This newly drawn district includes all of Routt, Moffat and Rio Blanco counties and most of Eagle County.

Even at the state level, only Republicans have contested races. For Governor, University of Colorado Regent Heidi Ganahl is facing off against former Parker Mayor Greg Lopez. The race for Colorado’s U.S. Senate seat currently held by Democrat Michael Bennet features state Rep. Ron Hanks and business-owner Joe O’Dea.

The only real procedural change for counting ballots in a primary versus a general election is that election officials have multiple ballot types that need to be recorded, specifically in regards to which ballot an unaffiliated voter returns. Thomas said this adds a step to the vote tallying process, but isn’t a significant change.

“We just slow the (opening) board down, make sure that everybody’s doing the steps that are required so that we get that data,” Thomas said.

The polling center at the historic Routt County Courthouse in downtown Steamboat Springs will stay open until 7 p.m. on Tuesday. The two 24-hour drop boxes in Steamboat — one in the alley behind the courthouse and one in the parking lot of the Combined Law Enforcement Facility on the west side of town — will also close at 7 p.m.

“We’ll have judges stationed at the boxes at 7 p.m. so they can lock them right at 7 p.m. and they can clear them out and make sure everything is accounted for,” Thomas said.

Voters can also return ballots at the town halls in Yampa, Oak Creek and Hayden, though those drop boxes will be picked up at 5 p.m. on Tuesday when those buildings close for the day. The Clark Store in Clark also has a drop box that will be available until 5 p.m. on Tuesday.

Shortly after polls close, Thomas said she anticipates releasing an initial report of the count so far, which will include most of the ballots submitted prior to election day. Another update will come around 9 p.m., which could potentially include the complete election night tally.

“We’ll see how late we go,” Thomas said. “I don’t forecast us staying terribly late or anything with this many ballots. It’s nice to stay on top of the process so that we’re not here all night.”

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