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Long lines don’t sway Steamboat Springs voters

Aaron Baker stretches out Tuesday evening in an effort to find a flat spot to fill out his ballot. Baker rushed to the Routt County Courthouse in downtown Steamboat Springs as the 7 p.m. voting deadline approached. He wasn't alone. County clerk Kim Bonner opted to open a second place for ballot collection on Tuesday afternoon, opening her office in the courthouse to take register voters and take paper ballots. Late-arriving voters looked for any place they could find to fill out their ballots and get in their vote.
Joel Reichenberger

— Long lines defined the experience Tuesday and even as the sun went down, the cold set in and the deadline approached, voters rushed to the Routt County annex in downtown Steamboat Springs.

One woman jumped out of her car, leaving it parked haphazardly, and ran to the ballot box outside. Several more scrambled to get inside the building and to the voting machines, just beating the locked door, only to find they had 30 more minutes to wait.

It was a big election, a shocking election, and Steamboat did not want to miss out.

“This is who I am, how I was raised,” said Aaron Baker, a delivery driver who had to park his work truck outside in order to beat the 7 p.m. voting deadline.

“I love my country and it’s our duty to vote,” he said.

Tuesday, that hustle paid off as he voted with a strong surge for Donald Trump who was poised late Tuesday night to be elected president of the United States.

Trump lost in both Routt County and in Colorado but baffled pollsters and Democrats with a precedent-shattering showing. As of late Tuesday night, his potential win would be one of the biggest upsets in presidential election history.

Routt County voted for Clinton 55 percent to 37 percent for Trump. Third-party candidate Gary Johnson picked up 5 percent of the vote and Jill Stein had 1.2. Those results mirrored the local Republican-Democrat split from 2012, when Barack Obama had 56.8 percent and Mitt Romney 41.1.

Clinton’s local success made it 12 years and three consecutive elections Routt County has been tinted blue. The Democratic candidate has now won six of the last seven races locally.

Tuesday, Clinton had plenty of voters come out to support her in Routt County. 
Meghan Bubenheim came with her daughter, 6-month-old Rosie. They were among those squeezing in their votes late. Bubenheim said she temporarily lost her mail-in ballot, then rushed it to the box after finding it buried in the bottom of her purse.

She said she didn’t love everything about Clinton but still voted for her with pride.

“It was a vote for Hillary,” she said, “not a vote against Trump.”

She relished the opportunity to vote for the first woman to top a major party ticket, as much for what it represented for her daughter, bundled up against the cold, as for who it was.

“I tried to get a picture with her and my ballot while I was filling it out,” Bubenheim said. “It didn’t really work. She just tried it eat the paper. I will tell her about this someday, though.”

Most of the county had already voted by mail, but strong turnout and a mid-day computer glitch led to long lines in Steamboat Springs. Volunteer poll watchers handed out eight cases of water to waiting voters and eventually county clerk Kim Bonner opened a second office to help deal with the crowd. Workers based in the courthouse helped register voters and handed out paper ballots. Citizens spilled out into the hallways, using pens and any flat surface they could find to fill in their ballots.

That simple act, voting in general more than voting for any particular candidate, drove many.

Dina Fisher also came to vote with her daughter, 13-year-old Claire.

Fisher said she appreciated the significance of a woman at the top of the ballot, but she wasn’t sold on Clinton or Trump.

Still, she was trying to teach a lesson, a lesson that voting is important.

Moments after they’d voted together, that lesson had sunk in with her daughter.

“If you don’t vote,” Claire said, glancing up to her mother, “you can’t complain.”

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9


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