Voter turnout remains steady over lunch hour | CraigDailyPress.com

Voter turnout remains steady over lunch hour

Turnout expected to swell after 5 p.m.

Bridget Manley

Voter numbers held steady during the lunch hour Tuesday as Craig polls continued to draw in an average of 150 voters per hour.

As of noon, 770 Moffat County registered voters had cast their ballots at Centennial Mall since polls opened at 7 a.m., according to election judge records.

The number of provisional ballots cast had also increased, nearly doubling since 10 a.m.

Voters cast provisional ballots when records show they are registered in another county, may have already voted, or during other circumstances in which their vote could be called into question.

“If there’s any question at all about the validity (of their vote), they vote a provisional ballot,” Election Judge Jennifer Riley said, adding that officials will determine if these ballots are valid when they are counted later.

At 10 a.m., 10 voters had cast provisional ballots. Two hours later, that number increased to 18.

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Because provisional ballots are counted after all other votes have been tabulated, a final count may not be available until Wednesday, said Elaine Sullivan, Moffat County clerk and recorder.

She estimated that ballots from Dinosaur and Maybell won’t arrive in Craig until 9 or 9:30 p.m., pushing back Tuesday’s unofficial count to about 10 p.m.

Still, the election hadn’t been accompanied by any major complications as of noon Tuesday.

“It’s just been so smooth,” Sullivan said.

Election Judge Neil McCandless, who manned the paper ballot scanner station, agreed.

McCandless stood near the scanners, handing out white oval “I Voted” stickers to residents after they scanned their ballots. Scanners keep running tallies as ballots are run through them, but those numbers won’t be released from the machine until after the polls close at 7 p.m.

So far, the machines had run without a hitch.

“They’re working wonderfully,” McCandless said.

McCandless, a lifelong Craig resident, has worked in more elections than he can remember. This year, however, has left an impression on him.

“I’ve never worked at an election that was this busy,” he said.

Although a long line of voters had filed into the mall vote center before polls opened, only a handful of voters came to cast their ballots during Tuesday’s lunch hour.

Election Judge Brandi Sterle, however, said she expected the pace would quicken after 5 p.m. and remain busy until polls closed at 7 p.m.

“A lot of people will come in after work and (after) picking up kids from school,” she said.

Bridget Manley can be reached at 875-1795 or bmanley@craigdailypress.com

Election Judge: “Awesome” turnout so far

County on track for 75 percent of registered voters to cast ballots

Elaine Sullivan, Moffat County clerk and recorder, sat surrounded by voting booths and equipment, looking relaxed at 10 a.m. Tuesday morning.

Three hours after the polls opened Tuesday at Centennial Mall, the election was running smoothly, she said, bringing out cooperative voters and no major problems.

“It’s perfect,” she said.

Election Judge Judy Smith echoed her words.

“We didn’t know what to expect,” she said, adding that some judges were braced for long lines and irate voters.

That scenario, however, hadn’t played out.

“That’s what you hope for,” she said, “lots of people, no waiting.”

As of 10 a.m. Tuesday, the 2008 general election proved to be the largest and yet smoothest-running election Sullivan said she could remember.

About 440 voters, or roughly 150 per hour, had cast their ballots since the polls opened at 7 a.m., Election Judge Jennifer Riley said.

At that rate, she estimated 1,500 more voters would turn out before the polls closed, raising the total of Election Day voters to about 1,940.

That’s an average turnout for an election year, Riley said. However, the fact that approximately 53 percent of the county’s active registered voters participated in early voting meant a majority of registered Moffat County voters could cast a ballot this year.

Riley estimated that by the time the polls closed, approximately 75 percent of Moffat County’s voter roll will have voted, either on or before Election Day.

She had one word for Tuesday’s turnout: awesome.

Riley helped check voters’ registration before they cast their ballots. She hadn’t encountered any major problems, she said, but added that 10 voters had been assigned provisional ballots because they had moved to Moffat County without transferring their registration from their previous residence.

A provisional ballot is counted so long as the voter didn’t cast a vote in another county and were registered to vote in the county they had previously lived in.

Normally, about 80 percent of provisional ballots count, Riley said.

As far as she knew, election judges hadn’t had any major technical problems with electronic voting, said Katherine Dodd, Moffat County High School senior and first-time election judge. She and two other judges – Cindel Nielson and Brandi Sterle – assigned voters a code to use the machines.

“It’s going pretty smooth,” Dodd said. “We’ve had some long lines, but it hasn’t been too bad.”

As she spoke, a few voters were trickling into the polling place at Centennial Mall.

Sullivan expected the lull would continue through the lunch hour. However, she wasn’t counting on it to last.

“I think tonight, we’re going to be busy,” she said.

Moffat County voters cast their ballots

Voting lines began growing before polls opened at 7 a.m.

Before the polls opened Tuesday morning, Moffat County voters were already lining up in Centennial Mall to cast their ballots.

And, as time passed, the line grew.

And grew.

And grew, until it snaked from the registration table to the door and around the opposite wall.

Elaine Sullivan, Moffat County clerk and recorder, watched the line to voting booths lengthen.

She had no misgivings about how the election would run.

“I think it’s going to go great,” she said.

Sullivan had one concern, though: waiting time.

Lines probably weren’t going to be “horrendous,” she said, but voters may have to wait between 10 and 15 minutes to cast their votes.

Waiting time gave residents a chance to study the hefty ballot awaiting them in the Nov. 4 general election.

Moffat County residents had a variety of choices to make, ranging from who would be their next president and U.S. senator to who would represent the county in the state House and Senate.

A seat for District 1 Moffat County commissioner and the 14th Judicial District Attorney were also on the ballot, as were 10 constitutional amendments and four referendums.

Many voters studied sample ballots as they waited in line. But several Craig residents, including Stephanie Harvey, said they’d already made up their minds on how they would vote before the walked in the door.

Harvey, who isn’t registered with any political party, said she was casting her vote for Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

“He’s been around a lot more, he’s seen a lot more, he’s experienced a lot more,” she said, adding that his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, also brought experience to the ticket.

“I just think there’s more wisdom and leadership there,” she said.

Harvey was still undecided, though, on whether to vote for Democrat Lois Wymore or Republican Tom Gray for Moffat County commissioner.

It so happened that the latter was standing in line a few feet ahead of her.

Gray, a registered Republican, had also made up his mind to vote for McCain. The presidential candidate’s philosophy on stimulating economic growth by not “overburdening people with taxes” clinched Gray’s vote, he said.

While some voters traveled a few minutes to get to their polling place, one former Craig resident crossed state lines to cast his ballot.

Rod Compton, former Craig City Council member, moved to Albuquerque, N.M. in January. However, because he still owns a house in the area, his residency remains in Moffat County, which required him to vote in Craig.

Compton had to return to Craig to work on his house and stopped in Tuesday morning to vote.

In Compton’s view, returning to Northwest Colorado to cast his ballot was worth the trip.

“It’s a crucial time in our country,” he said.