“It’s going to be a huge ballot”
By Katherine Nettles
Two challengers will attempt to unseat incumbent Gunnison County commissioners in Districts 1 and 2 this fall during the 2020 presidential election. It’s looking like a big ballot for November 3, with several regional and statewide measures in addition to the national election.
And as the national electorate raises concerns about coronavirus adaptations and an expected unprecedented number of people choosing mail-in ballots, Gunnison County election officials say they are confident in the experienced, bi-partisan system they have in place.
Locally, Republican Dave Taylor will challenge newly appointed county commissioner Liz Smith, a Democrat, for District 1, and unaffiliated candidate Trudy Vader will appear on the ballot against Democrat Jonathan Houck, District 2 representative and chair of the board. Taylor secured a place on the ballot in the June primary elections as a write-in candidate. Vader secured a place by turning in 328 approved petition signatures last week.
County elections director Diane Folowell said there are still a few regional and state measures trickling in, and the Colorado Secretary of State will give the Gunnison County elections office a final version of the ballot on September 4.
“It’s going to be a huge ballot,” predicted Folowell.
In addition to the commissioner races in Districts 1 and 2, regional measures include the town of Marble asking for a sales tax increase; the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District, which covers 13 counties, expected to ask for a mill levy increase; and the Carbondale and Rural fire district, which includes areas in Gunnison County surrounding Marble, also expected to ask for additional funding.
Referred measures at the state level include issues such as gray wolf reintroduction; a national popular vote interstate compact; and a repeal of the Gallagher amendment.
Voter safety and ballot security
Since 2013, Colorado law has mandated that every registered voter receive a mail-in ballot, and Gunnison County has managed that process for its voters ever since. Folowell said she feels great about ballot integrity given the established mail-in voting practices already in place for several years.
“We have a great model of mail-in voting. We’ve been doing this since 2013, and we have security measures that we enforce with all elections. And the transparency is second to none in Colorado. I’m really proud of the model we have here,” Folowell said, adding, “and we have a great set of bipartisan ballot judges, and that includes Gunnison County clerk and recorder Kathy Simillion.”
The June primary election proved a good test run for the upcoming presidential election, Folowell said, which she expects to bring record voter numbers.
The June primary “went beautifully. It was a great dry run for this fall, and I couldn’t have been more pleased with how it was set up,” Folowell said.
Ballots will be mailed out of Denver on October 9, said Folowell. “So people can expect to have them by Saturday [October 10], or Tuesday [October 13] following Columbus Day.”
There will be in-person voting available at the Parish Hall in Crested Butte; at the Blackstock government building in Gunnison; and for the first time, as required by House Bill 1278, there will be a voter service at Western Colorado University as well.
Ballot drop boxes throughout the county will be available for 15 days prior to Election Day. The Blackstock building main voter center will have drive-through, all-outside voting.
Folowell warns that there will likely be long lines of vehicles at the Blackstock building at the in-person voting locations on Election Day, so people should plan accordingly and drop or mail in their ballots early.
“The first thing on our minds is the safety of voters, and protecting them and their votes,” said Folowell.