It was a busy fall on the political front, with the midterm congressional elections, the governor’s race, several State offices up for consideration and some contentious ballot measures. I for one do not miss the barrage of political ads on TV and radio, and the mailing stuffing my mailbox. All that aside, voting truly is the cornerstone to our representative democracy. Voting does make a difference and every vote does count. For most U.S. citizens, voting is fairly easy. There are places in our country where some feel disenfranchised and sometimes have a difficult time getting to the polls, however Colorado and Larimer County specifically, does a good job making voting easy for anyone who wants to make their opinion heard.
For most of us who vote, we take that ease of voting for granted. We fill out our ballot at our leisure and drop it in the mail or drop it off at the ballot box. Some like to come out on Election Day and vote in person. There are sometimes lines waiting to vote, but here in Larimer County those lines are rarely very long and the process goes very smoothly. This doesn’t happen by chance. There is a lot of work behind the scenes that make it possible for us to participate in the democratic process. At the Town, we experience that firsthand when our Town Clerk’s office runs Municipal Elections during even years. The staff work tirelessly to serve the voters and conduct a seamless election process.
Coordinated elections, such as the one we just had this month, are the responsibility of the County Clerk. The County Clerk and Recorder is an elected position with many responsibilities. One major responsibility is conducting elections. This is a year-round, full time effort. First it starts with managing the voter rolls. The Clerk’s office must keep the rolls up to date and help people register to vote when they move to our community or become eligible. They need to make sure people who move away, die or otherwise are ineligible to vote, are removed from the “active” rolls. The Clerk must maintain the voting equipment, which includes keeping the vote counting equipment secure and protected year-round.
Prior to the election, the Clerk must prepare all the ballots. There are numerous special districts, towns, cities and school districts that can all have an item on the ballot. These ballots must be distributed only to the people eligible to vote on each issue, resulting in many ballot styles in play in any election. Some items, such as a local improvement district, may have only a handful of people eligible to vote, while countywide issues are open to all voters in the County.
The Clerk must identify and secure a specified number of polling places throughout the County, and each location must meet specific criteria of accessibility for voters.
In this last election, the County hired 478 election judges. Each judge has a very specific role. There are ballot box judges, provisional judges, greeter judges and supervising judges. Behind the scenes there are Counting Facility Batching judges, signature verifications judges, removal judges and counting judges. In addition to the judges there are runners and transfer teams who deliver ballots and collect ballots for counting. There are very specific rules that are set up to protect the integrity of the votes. Everything in Larimer County is done in bipartisan teams – no single person or party affiliation ever works alone. Political parties often station Poll Watchers at polling places to observe the procedures, to see for themselves that everyone has a chance to vote without any interference.
Many of the election judges work long hours, not just on Election Day, but for several weeks before the election for data entry, to staff the early voting sites, etc. Here in Estes Park we had 18 election judges responsible for the Voter Service and Policy Center in Town Hall. With one of the drop off locations just outside my office in Town Hall, I saw these folks every day, starting early in the morning through the late afternoon, helping people with the process. Sometimes they were busy, but often it was pretty slow, and I’m sure more than a little boring at times.
Angela Myers, our Larimer County Clerk and Recorder said it perfectly, “All of the judges did an exceptional job! We are extremely proud of our Estes Park Judges - many of whom help us year after year. Without fail, Election Judges are amazed by the care and detail that goes into the process - they had no idea before they became a judge what went into an election.”
So, to all those Estes Park judges and others who made our election run smoothly, thank you for your dedication, your time, your smiles and your positive attitudes. Without you, our elections wouldn’t be as successful as they are, and so easy for the rest us to participate in the process of representative democracy.