Primary election to take place by mail

Method popular with county voters and will save taxpayers up to $250K

Mesa County voters will go to their mailboxes rather than their local school or town hall to cast their ballots in this year’s primary election.

County commissioners unanimously agreed Monday to forgo setting up vote centers across the county on Aug. 10 in favor of mailing ballots to voters. That method, which the county has used on a limited basis since 1997, is popular with voters and should save taxpayers more than a quarter of a million dollars.

“I feel like it makes good fiscal sense. It seems to be what the majority of people are doing (already),” Commissioner Janet Rowland said.

State lawmakers passed a law last year giving counties the option to conduct primary elections by mail ballot. It was primarily designed to help smaller counties that were spending a lot of money putting on full elections despite low turnout numbers in sparsely populated areas.

Mesa County Chief Deputy Clerk Sheila Reiner said 75 percent of county voters who cast ballots in the 2008 primary election did so via mail ballot. Only 17 percent went to a vote center.

Reiner also noted the county will save money by not having to train and pay election judges or set up and program voting machines, among other expenses. She said the county spent $350,000 to conduct the 2008 primary for which only 15,000 people turned out. The same election would have cost about $75,000 if it had been conducted by mail only.

Elections staff have figured the county will save about the same $270,000 amount this year.

Reiner said some residents have expressed concern that conducting the primary by mail could promote election fraud. But she said that hasn’t been an issue in the past.

Voters who prefer to vote in person will still have that opportunity in August, albeit on a limited level. Rich said state law mandates that the county set up two service centers — one is expected to be at Mesa Mall and the other at the county courthouse — a week before the primary. There, people will be able cast their ballots by a vote machine.

Reiner said she knows of seven other Colorado counties looking to switch to mail ballot elections for this year’s primary.


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