Moffat County tweaking election format

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At its regular meeting Tuesday, the Moffat County Commission:

• Approved, 2-0, transfer of payment warrants totaling $389,150.54.

• Approved, 2-0, payment of payroll warrants totaling $394,594.02.

• Approved, 2-0, a certificate of public trustee for the first quarter of 2011.

• Approved, 2-0, naming Dr. Troy Phillips as the county’s EMS program medical director on recommendation from the county’s EMS Council.

• Approved, 2-0, a resolution supporting Craig Cleanup Days on May 21 and 22.

• Approved, 2-0, an amendment for a conditional use permit issued to Geokinetics USA for seismic operations in the county.

• Approved, 2-0, a planning variance for Darric Smith.

• Approved, 2-0, a personnel requisition for a staff assistant position for the Moffat County Tourism Association.

• Approved, 2-0, a personnel requisition for an activity coordinator for the Moffat County Housing Authority.

• Approved, 2-0, a mineral lease between B.L. Taylor and the Museum of Northwest Colorado for $254,579.19.

• Approved, 2-0, a mineral lease between B.L. Taylor and Moffat County for $1,101,557.

• Approved, 2-0, a Colorado Works policy update for Social Services.

• Approved, 2-0, a $25,000 grant from Temple Hoyne Buell to help fund professional development for Social Services.

— Commissioner Audrey Danner was absent from the meeting.

Moffat County Elections Supervisor Stephanie Beckett said Moffat County has been behind the curve by not conducting coordinated elections by mail-in ballot only.

“Most of the state already does that,” Beckett said. “We were one of four counties last year in the election that did not have an all-mail ballot election, and it just seems like voters are leaning that way, to have their ballots mailed to them.”

At Tuesday’s regular Moffat County Commission meeting, commissioners Tom Gray and Tom Mathers approved a resolution to have this year’s November coordinated election done by mail ballot only. Commissioner Audrey Danner was absent.

Beckett said a coordinated election happens every two years and deals with non-partisan matters such as tax questions and when applicable, electing school board officials.

In even-numbered general election years, voting will continue to be done by both mail and polling place because of state law, she said.

Lila Herod, Moffat County Clerk and Recorder, attended Tuesday’s commission meeting.

She said the Citizen’s Election Review Committee hosted a workshop last week to discuss the matter with residents.

“It really was received really well,” Herod told the commissioners.

Beckett said the reason for the switch is to help increase voter turnout and possibly save money.

According to numbers presented to the commissioners, the estimated cost of a mail-in ballot election is $22,780, compared to $25,350 for an election that includes a polling place, equaling $2,570 in savings.

Gray and Mathers asked whether there was an increased chance for voter fraud through an all mail-in election, whether through ballots being copied or people filling out another person’s ballot.

Herod said there are methods to limit voter fraud.

She said if a copied ballot were to be mailed, it would not be readable and would likely be noticeably different looking than the actual ballot.

Another step the county would use is verifying ballot signatures.

“If we see any discrepancy in the signature, or if the mail ballot election judges see that, then you send a letter to the voter saying, ‘There seems to be an error with this’ … and to come in and verify it,” Herod said.

Beckett said the last mail-in election conducted by the county was in 1993, but the county was able to judge the effectiveness of the mail-in process through the City of Craig’s municipal election last month.

“We went off their information on how it went and used our information and our software to see if it was smooth, or something we wanted to attempt as a county, and it really did (work,)” Beckett said. “There were minimal complaints of not getting to go on Election Day, but overall it seemed to go really smooth.”

Similar to the city’s mail-in process, only active registered voters will be sent ballots.

Beckett said before the election plan becomes official, the county will need approval from the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office, which she didn’t think would be a problem.

Gray said given the type of election this November will be, the new idea is an opportunity to try something different.

“It’s a good thing to try in a coordinated election,” he said. “When it comes to a general election year, I might have a different opinion.”

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