Election ballots soon will be mailed to Pitkin County voters — but not for the much-ballyhooed Nov. 3 contests, which include races for president, U.S. House District 3, U.S. Senate and whatever local initiatives should find their way into the process.
What’s coming up is Colorado’s first presidential primary in 20 years, on March 3, as part of the Super Tuesday slate of primaries. The county’s Republicans will be mailed a ballot containing the names of six Republican presidential contenders, including President Donald J. Trump; county Democrats will face the prospect of having to choose one of 17 candidates, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and billionaire Michael R. Bloomberg, who also is a former mayor of New York City.
Unaffiliated voters also will be able to participate. They’ll be mailed both the Republican and the Democratic ballots, but they will only be allowed to participate in one of the primaries.
“Unaffiliated voters must choose either the Republican ballot or the Democratic ballot,” said Janice Vos Caudill, the county’s clerk and recorder. “Choose one and return it; discard the other one.”
Vos Caudill said there’s no way to predict turnout for the primary. “We’re preparing as if it will be high turnout,” she said.
During the last Colorado presidential primary on March 10, 2000, turnout was light: Only 634 county voters participated.
Democrat Al Gore, vice president at the time under President Bill Clinton, was the overwhelming choice of Pitkin County’s Democrats who participated. He took 162 votes, according to Vos Caudill.
The GOP primary in the county was a much tighter affair. George W. Bush, who would eventually defeat Gore for the presidency and go on to a second term, garnered 191 votes to the late U.S. Sen. John McCain’s 161 votes, Vos Caudill said.
She added that 17-year-olds will be eligible to participate in Super Tuesday if they turn 18 on or before Nov. 3. Most of the local ballots for Super Tuesday will be mailed on Feb. 10, Vos Caudill said. Around 275 ballots for county residents who are currently overseas already have been sent, she said.
Voters do not have to participate by mail, which is the preferred voting method of 95 percent of Coloradans, according to Vos Caudill. Voters may drop off their ballots at the county’s voting box in front of the county administration building on Main Street. Other voting boxes are located in front of the town hall buildings in Snowmass Village and Basalt.
Early in-person voting begins Monday, Feb. 24, at the county building. Hours of operation that week will be 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 29.
Registered voters also may cast ballots in person on the eve of the primary, March 2, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or on Election Day, March 3, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Vos Caudill pointed out that 2020 marks the 100-year anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted women the right to vote following the decades-long women’s suffrage movement. A statewide referendum to give women the right to vote passed in 1893, which led to three women being elected to the Colorado House of Representatives the following year. Colorado was the first state to pass women’s suffrage into law.
In other election news, Vos Caudill told Pitkin County commissioners last week that 2020 will be a busy election year for her office, not only because of Super Tuesday, but also the June 30 party primaries to decide which Democrat and Republican will face off in the Colorado U.S. House District 3 contest (Republican incumbent Scott Tipton is seeking re-election) and also the race for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Cory Gardner, who also is seeking re-election.
Then comes the general election for president, U.S. House and U.S. Senate on Nov. 3, along with other ballot items. Vos Caudill received Board of County Commissioners approval last week to hire an additional full-time employee who is expected to split time over a 10-month period, working with the elections and motor vehicles departments within her office.