County shifting into high gear for election

Posted 10/23/08

Tom Munds The Arapahoe County Clerk and Recorder’s Office began the planning process in 2004 for this year’s primary and general elections and …

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County shifting into high gear for election


Tom Munds

The Arapahoe County Clerk and Recorder’s Office began the planning process in 2004 for this year’s primary and general elections and activities shifted into higher gear with the arrival of the election season in early October.

Gone are the days when the entire focus was on the first Tuesday in November, Election Day, when everyone went to the polls to cast their ballots. Still, there are 195 polling places serving the county’s 372 precincts and there will be nearly 1,500 poll workers and judges staffing the polling places. Many of the workers still are attending workshops and classes.

Polling places are equipped with state-certified, touch-screen electronic voting machines. The county has 1,300 of them. Many will be used for early voting with the majority delivered to polling places for use on Election Day. Each machine has undergone diagnostic testing before it is placed at a polling location. Additionally, there are 25 machines in reserve that can be swiftly moved where needed if long lines develop.

Arapahoe County uses electronic voting machines that also create a paper record of the votes cast on that machine. When polls are closed, the cartridge containing the electronic and paper record of votes cast are returned to the county’s election center for tabulation.

However, despite the fact the voter rolls grew by about 50,000 since the first of the year, the lines are not expected to be long Election Day because of the increased popularity of mail-in ballots and early voting. About 190,000 county residents signed up for mail-in ballots, which is about 55 percent of the county’s 343,000 registered voters. Mail-in ballots went to the U.S. Postal Service Oct. 6.

Following are tips to help residents mark the mail-in ballot correctly:

Vote for a candidate by completing the arrow on the ballot with a heavy, bold line.

If there is a write-in candidate in a race, put the candidate’s name on the line provided and fill in the adjacent arrow.

Always use pens with either blue or black ink.

Do not use white-out or a black marker.

Voters requesting a mail-in ballot can not cast their votes at the polls.

Put ample postage to return the ballot by mail or take it to one of the 13 drop-off locations around the county. Postage can vary from 57 cents to $1.07.

Additionally, voters can go to one of the eight sites to take advantage of early voting. Early voting began Oct. 20 and runs through Oct. 31.

Mail-in ballots can be returned through the Postal Service or returned to one of the 13 drop-off locations. Either way, they are received and processed at the Arapahoe County Election Center where crews begin processing the ballots.

The first step is each ballot is stamped with the arrival date and the ballots are assembled in groups of 50.

Then, election workers check to see the ballot envelop is signed and the signature matches the signature on the voter registration.

If the ballot isn’t signed or the signature doesn’t match the voter registration card, the ballot is set aside, the voter is notified by mail of the error and invited to come to the clerk’s office and make the corrections.

From there the ballots are moved to another room where they are processed by a two-member team. Team members open the document, removes the secrecy envelop and its ballot and discards the mailing envelop so there is no way to determine who cast that ballot.

One member of the team removes the ballot from the secrecy envelope and checks to make sure there are no stains or tears in the ballot that would make it impossible for the counter to tally the ballot’s votes.

Then a member of the team unfolds the ballots and the ballots are placed in trays and stored until tabulation begins 10 days before Election Day. When counting begins, the county has three machines. Each machine can count 400 ballots a minute and store the tabulations that cannot be accessed until 7 p.m. Election Day.

“We are expecting a record turnout and we are trying to process the mail-in ballots as soon as they arrive at our center,” said Nancy Doty, county clerk and recorder, Oct. 16. “So far, we have only received about 25,000 mail-in ballots. Voters should take all the time needed to mark and return ballots. We hope the majority of voters do not wait until election week to return the mail-in ballots but, just in case, we have scheduled midnight shifts to work overnight Monday, Tuesday and, if needed, Wednesday.”

At a glance

— Election day becomes election season

— 55 percent signed up for mail-in ballots


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