Heavy voter turnout has impact on results timing

Gallowich huge, Mason big, 6A fails, 7D passes

By Mark Reaman

It took more than 22 hours after the polls closed in Gunnison County to announce a final vote count but when it was completed, Roland Mason was declared the winner of the District 3 county commissioners’ seat and John Gallowich was elected county sheriff. Mason received 5,610 votes to challenger Bob Schutt’s 3,054. Gallowich pulled in a whopping 6,604 votes to Mark Mykol’s 2,082 or more than 76 percent of the ballots cast.

An extremely large voter turnout in the county slowed down the vote tallying process that was finally completed Wednesday afternoon at about 5 o’clock. A total of 8,952 votes were cast in the general election and another 1,000 special district ballots were run through the county election office. More than 2,800 voters waited to cast their votes on Tuesday, November 6. The county has 13,906 registered voters so turnout came in at more than 64 percent.

Gunnison County Election Director Diane Folowell said believe it or not, the process went smooth and everyone was thrilled with the big turnout. “The days of quick results are over and they aren’t coming back,” she said Wednesday afternoon. “There were a couple of things that impact the speed of counting. The first is the number of people voting which was big this year. The second are new mandates from the Secretary of State that involves four or five additional steps in the ballot counting process. They are there so the state can prove that every vote cast is counted the way the voter intended. The equipment we purchased is thorough and so when a ballot is kicked out that ballot is reviewed by a panel of judges that make the determination about the ballot. That is very time consuming and this year was more so given the length and complexity of the ballot.

“We are thrilled with the outcome of this election,” Folowell continued. “There were lots of people registering to vote for the first time and a lot of people who hadn’t voted in a while that came in to cast their ballot. Plus a lot of people like to wait and vote on election day. That all adds to the time element. Everything went smoothly and there were no hiccups. We were just inundated with ballots. I must say the voters in this county are great. They are polite and knowledgeable. Our goal is to provide an accurate and transparent election for the voters of Gunnison County. It’s what they deserve.”

As for the new county officials, both Mason and Gallowich said they were honored to be elected to their office and are ready to begin their jobs. In fact both said they would be attending a joint dinner meeting of the local town councils and county commissioners on Thursday evening in Mt. Crested Butte.

“We worked hard during the campaign and understand it will be even more work in the actual job,” commented Mason. “I’ve already got several texts from people inviting me to attend meetings. I appreciate the support we received during the campaign and want to continue to keep open the great communication channels between the elected officials and the citizens.”

Gallowich seconded that idea and said his goal was to be as open and transparent with the public as possible. “There is a lot of work to be done and I’m excited to get going,” he commented. He said he met with the current sheriff on Wednesday to talk about the transition and was encouraged by the conversation with sheriff Besecker.

In other local election news, voters approved one regional ballot issue and rejected another. The Gunnison County Metropolitan Recreation District initiative to “debruce” was successful by a vote of 4,460 to 3,710. The Met Rec will begin collecting one mill of property tax and use the revenue to shore up and maintain over-the-air television infrastructure and contribute to recreation programs throughout the valley. “The passage of Measure 7D puts the Gunnison County Metropolitan Recreation District on solid footing for the future,” commented Met Rec chairman Dave Clayton. “Thank you to all of the voters that understood the passage was needed for both TV and recreational purposes.”

Ballot measure 6A put forward by the Gunnison Valley Regional Housing Authority was voted down. The measure would have increased property taxes with the revenues earmarked for affordable housing projects in the county. That measure was rejected 4,992 votes to 3,514. GVRHA board member John Messner said the vote was a pretty clear message. “In my opinion, the voters of Gunnison County sent a clear message that while access and affordability of workforce housing is of critical importance they want to see a comprehensive strategy for tackling the issue that includes project specific answers, private/ public partnerships, elimination of regulatory barriers and alternative funding mechanisms,” he said. “I look forward to continuing to work with folks throughout the county to come up with workable solutions to this pressing need.”

Other issues that had captured the attention of local voters included Colorado Amendment 73, a proposed tax increase for schools, that went down statewide 55 to 45 percent. Amendment 74 that was opposed by virtually all local governments was defeated in Colorado 54 percent to 46 percent. Proposition 112 that would have required major setback from any new oil and gas operation was also defeated 57 percent to 43 percent. Both proposals geared toward state transportation improvements, propositions 109 and 110 were defeated.

Mason and Gallowich will be sworn in to their new positions in early January.

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