It Takes a County to Hold an Election
by Michelle Nauer, Ouray County Clerk
Sep 20, 2012 | 900 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Guest Commentary

They say it takes a village to raise a child, but every other November I am reminded that it takes several villages, actually an entire county, to hold a successful election! Everyone from my staff, to the generous help of staff from other county departments, to the software and printing vendors, judges (including the logic and accuracy board and canvass board), local post offices and even the local newspapers will help us get the job done in a remarkably short period of time. There will be some big challenges with such a contentious Presidential Election.

I am happy to report that certified ballot content from the Secretary of State is here. I received it Friday, the day after the Democratic National Convention ended. That means this office is building the ballot pertinent to Ouray County and fortunately, everyone will be voting on one ballot style. The next step requires that the content be submitted to our vendor for ballot creation. This will only take a week or two and upon final proof a .pdf of the ballot will be transmitted to our printer. Approximately four thousand ballots will be printed for Ouray County electors. I will also get a sample ballot uploaded to just as soon as possible!

For purposes of understanding the magnitude of the event, let us backtrack so I can give you a quick view of some of the work involved in pulling this election together.

In the office, the mail ballot requests and voter registration applications have begun arriving either by mail or online. As the deadline to register looms on the horizon and subsequent deadlines to ask for a mail ballot approach, workload increases dramatically. As November 6 draws near I anticipate overwhelming activity. Now that the ballot language is available, the precise and time-consuming process of creating, proofing, testing and ordering the many mail, early and polling place ballots needs to be completed.

Once ballots arrive, all electronic equipment and optical scanners need to be thoroughly tested. I and one of my staff, along with several testing board members appointed by each political party, will spend approximately three days marking test ballots, tabulating these results and casting test votes on all of our machines. It is an important exercise for obvious reasons but is very precise and tedious, with no room for error. At the end of this process, the machines are carefully sealed and stored for future polling place installation the day before election.

High voter turnout mandates that I hire plenty of election Judges. I will have approximately a dozen judges to assist with mail-in and early voting and another dozen judges for the three polling places on November 6. There are about two dozen judges to train for their various assigned duties. There is so much for these people to learn and retain with so much at stake – and yet they really do a fantastic job!

While all of these major tasks are occurring I am also carefully preparing judges and staff to assist in the setup of polling places, mailing bunches of ballots every day, holding early voting at the Courthouse for two weeks, as well as organizing election supplies, equipment and logistics for the installation of three polling places. We work very hard and in the end everything usually comes together just in the nick of time.

Election results will not be posted at 7:00 p.m. but should be available before midnight on Election Night. Happily, after a very long day, I will post them on the county website at for local results or you can check the Secretary of State’s website for statewide results. I am certain the media will be all over it also. I remember in 2008 hearing that Obama was the declared winner and the polls on the West Coast had not even closed yet.

Knowing how hard we all work and how mentally and physically exhausting our job is, I empathize greatly with all counties for the pressure they are under during such a controversial election. It sure helps reaffirm the many benefits of being clerk in a small county in which I can be directly involved in all election-related processes, and work directly with so many incredible individuals. Administering elections is a very exciting process and, even with the extreme amount of work, my staff and I love it!

It all boils down to this. There will be endless commercials, tons of political mail, hours and hours spent testing equipment, continuous telephone calls verifying voter registrations, constant requests for mail ballots, lines of people wanting to vote early, non-stop signature verification, getting a chance to see our neighbors at the polls, continual checks and balances daily and what do we get? The privilege of voting! Be responsible; make certain your voice is heard. Do not wait until the last moment; know how you are registered and how you will participate in this election. Go to Check, update, and confirm your voter registration. Know how you intend to vote. Be smart. Make your vote count!

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