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As of Friday evening Oct. 16, one day after ballots arrived for Chaffee County voters, County Clerk and Recorder Lori Mitchell reports that 1,096 mail ballots have been returned.

The county currently has 14,926 active registered voters. Of the mail ballots already returned:

Party                          Active Registered     Ballots Returned     

Democrats                       3925                             465

Republicans                     4496                             226

Unaffiliated                     6304                             403

“other”                                                                        2

Monday, October 19 the county will open a full service vote center at the county’s office at 104 Crestone Ave. in Salida. Office hours will be 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  The county will also offer the same type of drive-through voting service as it did for the June primaries.

Mitchell reports what appears to be a new behavior in the county; disrespect to her staff by some dropping their ballots, complaining about things that are not their fault, include the pandemic and construction work going on behind the 24/7 ballot box outside the office.

“I have heard reports from my staff in BV that they are being disrespected by folks dropping their ballots at the Motor Vehicle Office,” said Mitchell.

Among complaints; the Office being closed to in-person transactions due to the pandemic.  “I take full responsibility for the office still being closed and I am working with the commissioners and the other departments to get the building open as soon after the election as possible,” said Mitchell. “Right now, it is risk management as I need all my staff to serve not only voters but all other transactions and I can’t chance having to close completely.”

She explained the construction behind the 24/7 ballot box.  “This is not obstructing the box and we are completing the work which is a modification of the door, so we can get the building open as soon as possible after the election.  I know my staff is behind glass, but I need to make sure the public is safe, too, in the lobby and the automatic door was problematic.”

She reiterated that the ballot box is being used for many of the department’s transactions (such as car registrations) and ballots.  But says Mitchell, “We are the only ones who have access.  Judges pick up the ballots.  It has a camera on it.  This has been going on since March.”

Mitchell confirmed that the box being used for ballots has been there for eight years since Colorado approved the mail ballot process. This year is the third election that it is being used for and that history has shown it to be safe. “My sworn Deputy County Clerks are of the highest integrity and many have worked for the County for decades,” said Mitchell. “Voters can drop inside Town Hall if they wish.  Voters can drop at a Vote Center.

Vote Centers will be open Nov 2 and Nov 3 in Poncha Springs and in  Buena Vista.