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Count every vote, please 

Let's say you ventured out on Feb. 5 and took part in one of the 775 or so caucuses across El Paso County. You waited through the administrative details (some presented incorrectly), listened to speeches and then made your choice for president.

Later, you learned Colorado went strongly for Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton, and Mitt Romney over Mike Huckabee and John McCain.

But there's one thing you don't know.

More than a week later, your vote still might not have counted.

For a variety of reasons, many understandable, El Paso County's two political parties didn't finish the job that night of tabulating their numbers. The local Democrats and Republicans obviously acting separately, and not knowing about the other side decided to go home because the outcomes were clear.

As you can read on p. 14, county Republican leaders have come closer to finalizing their numbers, raising the total counted participants from 11,029 to 12,186. But as late as Tuesday, a week after the caucuses, El Paso County Democrats still hadn't made any more progress.

We're not talking about one or two wayward locations, but 21 out of 387 Democratic precincts. For the record, in the state's other 63 counties, only nine out of 2,821 precincts have yet to be reported. That's nine not reporting in the other 63 counties, and 21 unaccounted for just in El Paso County.

Both parties have good explanations. The turnout was far higher than expected. Volunteers, many with no experience, were overwhelmed. Indeed, the winners were clear. And the parties' priority coming out of that night was assembling names chosen to represent each precinct at upcoming party functions, such as assemblies for the county and congressional district.

We won't argue that. But still, at some point, why not count the final numbers and close the book on Feb. 5? Everyone agreed the participation easily surpassed the numbers in Colorado's previous presidential primaries, when voters merely had to go to the polls and vote (or fill out an absentee ballot). So why not finish the counting and know the totals for certain in both parties?

There's another point here, which for many would be even more troubling. Indy reporter Anthony Lane asked the chair of the county Democratic Party, John Morris, which 21 Democratic precincts were unaccounted for.

The answer: Nobody knew. It might have been your caucus, anywhere in the county. It might have been mine. Nobody could say for sure.

You might wonder why it would matter. Consider this: Each Democratic precinct was instructed to choose delegates to the Feb. 23 county assembly (the Republican county gathering is March 8), based on the proportions for Obama and Clinton. For my precinct, that was seven for Obama, two for Clinton.

But if any precinct miscalculated, the numbers of Obama and Clinton backers at the county level could be wrong. And if they're wrong at the county level, that could impact the percentages chosen as state delegates even potentially having a tiny effect on those picked for the Democratic National Convention.

Few would care in a one-sided race. But with Obama and Clinton battling desperately for every single national delegate, neither camp would want to lose even one because of unmeticulous accounting or misinformation along the way. (My precinct caucus was told, wrongly, that state delegates would be chosen in the August state primary. In fact, the caucus vote started the process, so it wasn't meaningless as some precinct leaders were saying Feb. 5.)

Look at the Republicans in Washington state: GOP leaders stopped counting at 87 percent and declared McCain the winner, though he had only a slim lead. Fortunately, the counting has since resumed (and wasn't done as of Wednesday). Leaving the issue unanswered would lead to more questions, more curiosity, more distrust.

We don't need that in El Paso County. So if the local Democrats need to focus on preparing for their county meeting, we're willing to assemble a group of math majors at local colleges to go through the numbers from all 387 precincts, add them up and make them right. Same with the Republicans.

Then, at last, everyone will know his or her vote counted. As it should be.

routon@csindy.com

  • More than a week later, your vote still might not have counted in either party here.

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