Ouray County Swinging Into Election
by Samantha Wright
Oct 24, 2012 | 1379 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print

OURAY COUNTY – Ouray County Clerk Michelle Nauer didn’t think much about it when she received an inquiry from Associated Press reporters some time ago who wanted to know more about Ouray County’s voting record.

This week, she found out what all the fuss was about, when Ouray County was named in an AP study as one of 106 swing-voting counties and cities in nine battleground states that voted for President Bush in 2004 and Obama in 2008.

The study has been printed and broadcast in media outlets across the country, bringing a new wave of attention to this tiny county of less than 5,000 residents that until now has been somewhat of a political backwater.

All that has changed in this year’s closely contested presidential race, which State Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio told local constituents last week, could be decided by just few thousand votes in purple places like Ouray County.

The presidential election of 2008 is the only one that Nauer is aware of in her long career with the county, where the majority of Ouray County residents voted for a Democratic candidate. In that election, candidate Obama got 1,636 of the county’s votes, compared to McCain’s 1,368.

In contrast, the presidential election of 2004 saw President Bush and his veep Dick Cheney win 1,402 votes, while the Kerry/Edwards Democratic ticket got only 1,278.

Previous presidential elections of recent years have had similarly red results here. In 2000, the Bush ticket won 1,279 votes, while Gore received 705. In 1996, Dole had 984 votes to Clinton’s 569. And in 1992, when President George H. Bush was fighting for a second term, Ouray County was solidly behind him with 653 votes in compared to Clinton’s 461.

There’s no doubt about it, Nauer said. “In 2008, we swung.”

This election season has been “totally over the top” in terms of the attention Ouray County has been receiving, Nauer said. In addition to the county’s prominent mention in the recent AP study, it was also recently threatened with legal action by True The Vote, a Texas-based organization that alleged Ouray County was in violation of federal election law because of a discrepancy of census data compared to voter rolls. The discrepancy stems from the fact that Ouray County has a lot of second home owners, Nauer said.

Nauer’s office also received an email request from the Romney campaign, demanding to proof Ouray County’s ballot before it went to print. Every county in the state got a similar request.

And just last week, Nauer received aColorado Open Records Act request from the Denver-based watchdog group Ethics Watch, requesting a copy of her response to True The Vote. Nauer is not sure what the outcome of Ethics Watch’s inquiry will be.

In contrast to all this noise,  the election itself so far has been fairly quiet in Ouray County. “We’re trying to stay out of the fray and under the radar,” Nauer said.

Early voting got underway this week, with 14 people stopping in on Monday to cast their ballot. Mail-in ballots are beginning to trickle in as well; Nauer’s office mailed out 2,300 ballots last week to county residents who had requested them.

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