Polling places to be replaced by voting centers in the fall election

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A citizen task force convened this week by Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder Janice Vos Caudill has recommended that three required “voter service centers” be established in Aspen, Snowmass Village and Emma to replace eight traditional neighborhood polling places.

A new state law adopted in May requires that “voter service and polling centers” be established to replace polling places set up by precinct.

The new law, House Bill 13-1303, also requires that all Colorado voters this fall be sent mail-in ballots, regardless of whether a voter has requested one or not.

The voting centers are designed to help voters work through any problems casting their vote on election day, including checking the status of their mail-in ballot by accessing an online voter database managed by the Colorado secretary of state’s office.

The Pitkin County election task force recommended the service centers be set up at the Pitkin County clerk’s office in the county administration building on Main Street in Aspen, in the Snowmass Village Town Hall and at Grace Church in Emma near Basalt.

The task force was convened under the direction of Vos Caudill and includes Frieda Wallison, chair of the Pitkin County Republican party; Michael Simmons, the vice chair of the Pitkin County Democratic party; Chuck Downey, representing the Redstone area; Dorothea Farris a former Pitkin County commissioner; and Jackie Dean, an attorney who lives in Snowmass Village.

The task force reviewed criteria for a voter service center, including the public nature of the building, the proximity to public transit, the amount of parking and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The centers also have to be inside Pitkin County.

Vos Caudill said there was no obvious choice for a downvalley location inside lower Pitkin County for a voter service center. The Basalt Town Hall, for example, is just inside the Eagle County line.

And Vos Caudill said she has not yet had time to discuss the task force’s recommendations with officials in Snowmass Village or at Grace Church, which the county once sued in an effort to prevent them from building their religious facility in Emma.

She is open to feedback about the task force’s recommendations, Vos Caudill said, and noted that she will be presenting recommendations on the location of the centers to the board of county commissioners on July 10.

The new voter service centers, wherever they end up, will replace the county’s previous eight polling places, which accommodated voters from 10 precincts.

The old polling places were in the Rio Grande building behind the county courthouse, the Red Brick building in the West End, the Schultz Health and Human Services building by the hospital, the Snowmass Village Town Hall, the Old Snowmass fire station, St. Peters Church in Basalt and Redstone Church in Redstone.

The new election rules provide voters with an array of ways to cast their vote.

Citizens can vote early beginning 15 days before the election. In Pitkin County, early voting will be at the county clerk’s office.

Mail-in ballots, which will go out at least 18 days before an election, can be returned by mail in advance or on election day.

They also can be dropped off at the clerk’s office, in advance or on election day.

Also on election day, voters can cast a replacement ballot at a voter service center if they don’t have their mail-in ballot.

The election law also allows voter registration in person or through the mail up to 22 days before an election, online up to eight days before the election, and in-person on election day at the county clerk’s office and at voting centers.

Further, the law reduces the residency requirement to vote in an election from 30 days in a precinct to 22 days anywhere in the state.

Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism and the Aspen Daily News are collaborating on coverage of issues related to land, water and wealth, among other topics, in Pitkin County. The Daily News published this story on Saturday, June 22, 2013.

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