Local voters accept delays
For much of the day Tuesday, the Garfield County Commissioners’ meeting room looked more like a ticket outlet selling sought-after concert or sporting event tickets instead of a polling place.Glenwood Springs voters waited up to a half-hour in order to cast their ballots in Tuesday’s primary election. At 5:30 p.m., when it would seem the longest after-work line would form, the line had virtually been eliminated, allowing voters to move through the voting process in about 15 minutes. Glenwood’s one polling place got busy again near the 7 p.m. voting deadline, according to Garfield County Clerk Mildred Alsdorf. She said everyone who was in line at 7 p.m. was allowed to vote. “I heard the lines have been steady all day,” said voter Sue Hakanson, who finished voting about 2 p.m. with her daughter, Brigit. “It’s encouraging to see the great turnout, though the lines were long.” Mother and daughter waited about 35 minutes in a line that formed a giant C around the Courthouse Plaza room.For 18-year-old Brigit, who wore a “I Voted” sticker on her shirt, it was her first experience voting.
“I didn’t notice that we waited that long,” she said. “And voting felt official.” Ready or notOne reason for the long lines was that voting in the county’s 27 precincts was consolidated into just six polling places. In Glenwood Springs, for example, that meant that all registered Republicans and Democrats living in Glenwood who chose to vote in the primary voted at the Courthouse Plaza. During regular elections, Glenwood’s seven precincts all have their own polling places, and not just one. Alsdorf said she made the decision to consolidate voting based on the 2002 election, when she said only 850 voters cast ballots in that year’s primary. “The law allows me to consolidate precincts,” she said. That didn’t sit well with Mark Rinehart of No Name, who arrived at the polls at 10 a.m. and waited 25 minutes to vote.”Mildred didn’t anticipate the numbers of people voting,” Rinehart said. “I usually vote at the Hotel Colorado. I was taken by surprise when I got to the county building and there was already a line snaking through the room. It certainly wasn’t convenient, and it didn’t look too good.”
Rinehart said there were other problems as well. A woman standing next to him didn’t have her driver’s license, he said, and left. And some other voters saw the length of the line and left without voting. Jean Martensen also waited about a half-hour. She brought her little dog Jake with her to keep her company during the wait.”It’s worth it,” Martensen said. “This election is too important.”The right to queue to voteFor the most part, though, people seemed pretty accepting of the voting process Tuesday.Beth Williams, who showed up at the polls about 2 p.m., thought she’d beat the lunch crowd of people who vote during their lunch break.”But I think everybody thought the same thing,” she said smiling, 23 minutes into her wait, as she edged ever closer to the voter registration desk.”That’s what I thought!” Judy Haynes said with a laugh, standing just in front of Williams.
“It’s nuts,” Debbie Hull said of the long line. Hull usually votes at the First United Methodist Church – where she also happens to be associate pastor. She said she went to the church first, assuming she’d be voting there like she always has, but a sign redirected her to the annex building.”It’s all right,” Hull said. ” At least we have the right to vote.” Kyle Earlywine, 18, wasn’t upset by the line at all. Like Brigit Hakanson, Tuesday was his first time voting.”It’s cool,” he said, looking around the crowded room. “I’ve wanted to vote ever since I was 14 during the 2000 election.”Kris Wilson was perhaps the most philosophical about voting Tuesday.”It is what it is,” she said. “The wait, not the election.” Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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