Ballot counting takes until 6:45 a.m. |

Ballot counting takes until 6:45 a.m.

If ballot counting in Garfield County were a race, the winner Wednesday morning was the tortoise, not the hare. It took until about 6:45 a.m. to finish counting the ballots that were cast in the 2004 election. In all, 70 percent of the registered voters in the county and 87 percent of active (not newly registered) voters participated in the election.”I think it was the most we’ve had,” said Garfield County Clerk and Recorder Mildred Alsdorf.Ballot counting began Monday afternoon with absentee ballots.A new, $50,000 optical scanner ballot counting machine certified by the Colorado Secretary of State was in place in the county courthouse.”It worked beautifully,” Alsdorf said. Alsdorf also acknowledged the counting could have gone more quickly if the election staff had started counting the absentee ballots sooner. “We can count 10 days ahead of time, but I didn’t feel we had enough ballots (to make it worthwhile). I hate to have the machine (left out) and worry about it,” she said.Although more machines could have accelerated the process, Alsdorf does not see that as the best solution either, because it would have meant more staff to run the machines and check and resolve the ballots.The count was also slowed by ballots that could not be read by the scanner. Improperly or partially completed ballots were rejected by the scanner, she said.For example, if someone started to vote for one candidate, partially filled in a box, then changed their mind and voted for another candidate, the scanner rejected the ballot. It was then up to the Resolution Board of one Democrat and one Republican to determine what the voter intended. They then had to fill out a completely new ballot, and that took time, Alsdorf said.”There were quite a few (rejected ballots), especially the absentee ballots,” Alsdorf said.What would help the count go more quickly is counting the ballots at the precincts.”Some counties get (the count) in quicker because they have precinct counters,” Alsdorf said. “We’ll be looking at things like that.”Alsdorf estimated ballot counters would cost up to $10,000 for each of the county’s 27 precincts. They would also have to be compatible with the county’s new optical scanner.Garfield County Commissioner John Martin, who won a third term by a narrow margin over opponent Greg Jeung, said he’d approve such a move.”She’s never brought it forward. We said we would get her anything it would take,” Martin said. “Whatever she’s required we’ve provided.”The Colorado Secretary of State’s office had an observer, Alicia Schreiner, on the scene Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. According to secretary of state spokeswoman Lisa Doran, Schreiner will be on hand until Nov. 11 when provisional votes must be processed.Schreiner will file a report on her observations with Alsdorf’s office, Doran added.Doran also said it was no surprise the count took as long as it did.”It was a tremendous turnout and (the count) takes time,” she said. Doran also noted that Garfield County was not alone in having a slow ballot counting process. Boulder County had not completed its ballot count by Wednesday afternoon.Doran also noted that Garfield County was not alone in having a slow ballot counting process. Boulder County had not completed its ballot count by Wednesday afternoon.

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