BOULDER — County commissioners on Thursday endorsed the use of mail ballots for the November election, saying the voting system would ensure a strong presence from Boulder County voters on important state issues.
The commissioners each voiced concerns about mail ballots but ultimately supported recommendations from elections coordinator Josh Liss, who noted that the convenience of mail balloting usually leads to higher voter turnout.
About half of the counties in the state will use mail ballots in November, Liss said.
“The numbers are very compelling in terms of the increased raw voter turnouts,” Commissioner Will Toor said while reviewing Boulder County data from mail-ballot elections in 2001 — the county’s first — and 2003.
Mail ballots, he said, would help county residents be “represented fairly” on state ballot issues like the one that will ask voters to waive tax refunds for five years to offset deficits from the recent recession.
Any election process, including polling place elections, has its drawbacks, Commissioner Tom Mayer noted.
“Most of our poll watchers are in their 70s,” he said. “We expect them to work 14 hours a day with one training.”
Mayer and the other commissioners supported mail balloting for strategic reasons.
“Do we want a lower turnout in Boulder County than in other counties? I don’t think we do,” Mayer said.
Liss was unable to provide a cost estimate for the mail-ballot election because it’s unclear how many items will be on each ballot. But mail balloting is a less messy process than a polling place election, the newly appointed coordinator said.
“Few election judges are needed. There’s no polling places to set up,” he said. “Mail-ballot elections allow us to process and count ballots faster and produce quicker election results.”
Liss distributed written responses to common critiques of mail balloting at the meeting as a sort of pre-emptive strike against voting activists. The county clerk’s office endured intense criticism before and after the tumultuous November election, when printing problems and confusion over a new, $1.4 million ballot-counting system caused the vote tally to drag on for three days.
Activist Joe Pezzillo was unswayed. He accused the clerk’s office of pushing a mail-ballot system on county residents because the procedure used in November created a mess.
“Boulder County’s election system is unfit for Election Day use. That’s why they have to come to you now asking for mail ballots,” Pezzillo told the commissioners.
He confronted county clerk Linda Salas at the meeting’s conclusion, requesting paperwork so he could begin circulating petitions to remove her from office.
“I’d like that right now,” he said angrily.
Brad Turner can be reached at
720-494-5420, or by e-mail at