Long night ahead for Colorado election officials | SummitDaily.com

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Long night ahead for Colorado election officials

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Election officials across Colorado are preparing to count the votes that may decide the 2012 presidential election, and in Summit County, staffers say they won’t retire for the night until their work is done.

“We stay until all of our results are tallied,” said Summit County election clerk Lynn Blakeley.

Election officials in Summit County and across the state say there is heightened scrutiny of the election process this year, as the country watches Colorado and its nine potentially election-changing electoral votes.

“It’s been a lot more pressure on everybody,” Summit County Clerk and Recorder Kathy Neel said.

But unlike some Colorado counties, which are prepared to staff their election offices all night or, alternatively, call it a night at midnight and continue counting the following morning, local officials say, even as close as this election may be, they aren’t expecting the count to take that long.

Summit County’s unofficial results could be in by 9:30 p.m., local officials said, even as other counties prepare for an all-nighter. A system that allows voters to scan their ballots in at the vote centers across the county helps expedite election night results in Summit.

“Many (counties) bring the ballots back to the office and count them,” Neel said. “Ours are being counted at the polls.”

With the votes scanned in, election judges then bring the ballots back to the election offices in Breckenridge to be tallied after the polls close.

Early and mail-in ballots are also already scanned, counted and awaiting tabulation, which will be done after 7 tonight.

Approximately 3,650 local voters cast their ballots during early voting, which ended Friday afternoon, and an additional 6,500 mail ballots had been submitted as of Friday.

But Summit County has roughly 16,000 active registered voters and thousands more inactive, many of whom may still turn out to vote today. In 2008, 87 percent of electors in Summit County participated in the election, according to Neel. If local voters turn out in similar fashion this year, there could be several thousand more ballots cast today.

Statewide, some election offices have taken on additional temporary staff to help wade through the final ballot influx tonight, while others are prepared to staff shifts through the night to get through all the ballots.

Some clerks however, including Karen Long in Adams County and Scott Doyle in Larimer County, say they will send their staffers home around midnight and continue counting on Wednesday – even if the election is close and Colorado could swing the balance.

“We are all anxious,” Gov. John Hickenlooper said. “We will certainly encourage them to keep counting if it’s close. And I can all but guarantee there will be volunteers from both parties camped out at that doorstep. There is a great deal of anxiety on both sides.”

The Summit County Clerk and Recorder’s Office has three to four temporary assistants – election judges – helping count mail ballots for the last two weeks. Two will continue to assist tonight.