I. In Focus This Week
The vote goes on in Larimer County, Colo. despite fire
Clerk works to make sure all who want to vote can
When Tom and Sonia Koetting step out of the back of their Fort Collins Colo. home they hold their breath and keep a wary eye on distant sky where orange flames from the High Park Fire are eating up acre upon acre of Larimer County (pictured below, photo courtesy of Tom Koetting).
Despite the flames and the smoke and acting as a refuge for displaced family members, Sonia Koetting said not voting in Tuesday’s upcoming Colorado primary never crossed her mind.
“We live in the suburbs, so while we watch the smoke and offer refuge to my sister and her crew who are displaced, I would not miss voting because of the fire,” said Koetting who is also the PR coordinator for the League of Women Voters of Larimer County and soon to be the communications director for the League of Women Voters of Colorado. “However, if I were one of the displaced, it would be the furthest from my mind.”
But for Larimer County Clerk Scott Doyle, making sure all registered voters in the county affected by the fire has the opportunity to cast a ballot — whether they are thinking about it or not — has been a top priority since the fire broke out several weeks ago.
“If fire survivors want to vote I will do whatever is necessary to get them a ballot prior to the 26th - and I mean anything!” Doyle said. “I must say that this is not a very exciting election but for anyone who desires to vote they will be given a way to do so. I will even mobilize a bi-partisan team to deliver ballots to those in need if necessary. “
Doyle said that residents evacuated are given information at Red Cross centers about how to get a replacement ballot. His office has released information to the press about voter options since many displaced residents may not be in relief centers, but staying with family and friends.
Fortunately this primary election in Larimer is an all-vote-by-mail election so Doyle had no need to worry about relocating polling sites, replacing poll workers or any of the other typical issues surrounding a polling place-based election.
Even though this may be a low-interest, vote-by-mail election, Doyle is quick to explain that there are impacts on his work and staff.
“I suspect that it is hard for you to understand what is happening here. I think the best way to explain it is that it is apocalyptic in nature and magnitude,” Doyle said. “We will do our best for anyone wanting to vote but options and opportunities are clearly limited at this point.”
When asked if there was anything else he wanted to add about the upcoming election and the fire, Doyle simply said, “Please pray for us, please pray for safety, and rain...”
In addition to the High Park Fire, the Springer Fire is burning in parts of Park County. Clerk and Recorder Debra A. Green said that super vote center in Lake George is not impacted by the fire. She said that she has been in touch with her election judges and the county’s fire chief and the county will not need to go to a back-up plan for Tuesday.
Although the secretary of state’s office is monitoring the situation in Larimer and other affected counties, a spokesman for the secretary noted that all the counties have rock-solid contingency plans and would only step in if asked.
“From our office’s perspective we delegate a lot of that to the counties and we see some incredible thought devoted to their emergency preparedness plans,” explained Richard Coolidge, director of communications for the secretary of state’s office.
Coolidge said that due to the delicate, political nature of elections, the secretary of state’s office would only step in to reschedule an election in the most rare of occasions.
In other Colorado primary news, the secretary of state’s office is stepping in with two staff members to help Teller County oversee the upcoming election. According to The Gazette, the decision to send the staff came after calls from concerned voters and candidates came into the secretary’s office.
“I lost my main election staff person and wasn’t fast enough to run after that ball and when I got to the bottom of the hill, I wasn’t strong enough to hold it,” Clerk and Recorder J.J. Jamison told The Gazette. “I just couldn’t work fast enough.”
Jamison said the state staffers are “directing me. They’re helping me gather up those balls.”
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