Mesa County election officials brace for long day
Mesa County elections officials are gearing up for a long day today, staffing 10 local vote centers across the county with about 200 additional people to facilitate vote counting and organization on the big day.
Election Day workers will begin their day at 5:30 a.m., a full hour and a half before the polls officially open at 7 a.m.
And with tracking polls showing Colorado a true toss-up in terms of the presidential race, it could be a long night for vote counters to determine the winner.
County elections director Catherine Lenhart said they expect results for all the races, both national and local, to be wrapped up by midnight. But, “if it gets to midnight and we’re close, we’ll go ahead and push forward,” she said.
If there is still a fair amount of counting to be done when the clock strikes midnight, she said elections staff could return to work early Wednesday morning to finish the job.
Though a huge number of people in Mesa County cast their vote before Election Day, either by mail-in ballot or early voting, Lenhart said she would not be surprised if some 15,000 people lined up to cast a ballot on Election Day in the county.
At last count, officials said 57,044 early or mail-in ballots had been accepted before Election Day in Mesa County, which is a whopping nearly 75 percent of the total number of active voters in the county.
If 15,000 people show up to vote on Election Day, that means a large number of people considered “inactive voters” — or people who did not cast a ballot in the 2010 mid-term elections — cast a vote today.
The 200 extra workers, who will be at the polls organizing lines and handling ballots for tabulation, are generally paid $10 an hour, with supervisory workers earning $11 an hour, Lenhart said.
Elections officials hope to speed up the voting process by having two lines at each vote center, one for paper ballots and another for touch-screen voting. The county anticipates the shortest lines will be at the vote center in Fruita, at the Clifton Road and Bridge Shop, and at the Mesa County Fairgrounds.
They expect the biggest crush of voters to appear soon after 5 p.m., when people get off work.
Polls in Colorado are open until 7 p.m., but anyone in line at 7 p.m. will be allowed to cast a ballot.
Staff writer Gary Harmon contributed to this report.