GLENWOOD SPRINGS — A large number of ballots that were dropped off on Election Day in Garfield County Tuesday ended up boosting the county’s voter turnout to a respectable 46 percent.
That’s not bad for an off-year election without any races for major political office. The county’s turnout also exceeded the statewide turnout of 39 percent.
After only about 9,100 ballots had been returned by Monday, out of more than 28,500 that were sent out in the mail to registered active voters in the county in mid-October, Garfield County Clerk Jean Alberico reported a total of 13,686 ballots cast by the time polls closed on Tuesday.
“We had about 4,200 ballots returned on Election Day, which was one of the reasons it took a little longer get the final results that night,” Alberico said of the final unofficial tally, which was posted to the county website at 12:52 a.m. Wednesday.
By comparison, she said Garfield County had 3,000 Election Day ballots dropped off in the 2012 general election that included the presidential race and several key state and local races.
This was also the first election in the county and statewide that abided by the provisions of a new state law passed earlier this that allowed for same-day voter registration, and allowed voters to cast ballots at new Voter Service Centers outside their voting precincts.
Garfield County had only one same-day registration in Rifle, Alberico said. But the voter centers, where people could request new or replacement ballots, were heavily used, especially in Glenwood Springs and Carbondale, she said.
“We only had to issue a whopping one provisional ballot this year,” she said, compared to several dozen in last year’s election.
“That was part of the intent of the legislation,” Alberico said. Before, someone walking into a voter location other than in their home town or precinct had to cast a provisional ballot. Under the former rules, only votes in statewide races were allowed to be counted on those ballots, Alberico said.
“That was one of the things I really liked with the new procedures, and it was very helpful for the voters to know they could vote and that it would be counted,” she said.
One of the problems local election officials had to rectify as ballots were received and opened were those that were filled out using a pencil, instead of a black or blue ink pen as indicated in the instructions, Alberico said.
That meant that election officials had to take the time to fill out a duplicate ballot in pen, so that the counting machine could read them, she said.
“Probably three-quarters of the duplicate ballots we had to prepare were because people voted in pencil,” she said.
This was also the first election in which ballots were mailed to eligible, non-resident property owners in special districts that had tax questions on the ballot.
Garfield County mailed out about 1,200 such ballots to people owning property in the Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Gypsum fire districts, and the Silt Water Conservancy District, Alberico said.
Of those, 396 were completed and returned for the Nov. 5 election, she said.