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Primary ballots go out soon; registration deadline is Monday 

If you've been asleep the past few months, it's time to shake off the drowsies and realize there's an election just around the corner. Although voter turnout for party primaries is historically weak, this year's Aug. 10 decisions are pivotal.

On the Republican side, voters will determine who will be on the November ballot for U.S. senator: Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck or former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton. They'll choose whether Denver-area businessman Dan Maes or former congressman Scott McInnis will face Democrat John Hickenlooper, mayor of Denver, for the governor's seat. Voters also have a choice on the Republican ticket for treasurer between J.J. Ament and Walker Stapleton, with the winner facing incumbent Democrat Cary Kennedy.

Locally, they'll essentially elect the El Paso County sheriff by choosing between incumbent Terry Maketa, seeking a third term, and Monument Police Chief Jake Shirk. (John "Doc" Holiday is running as an independent on the November ballot.)

Democratic voters will choose between appointed Sen. Michael Bennet and former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff in the U.S. Senate race.

But to have a say in all that, you must register to vote by Monday, July 12. That's also the last day to change or withdraw from a major party affiliation. Unaffiliated voters can declare a party at the polls, but cannot receive a mail ballot.

A week later, on July 19, the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office will begin sending out about approximately 102,000 ballots to those who receive them through the mail.

If you prefer to vote at the polls, you'd better check where to go. Things have changed since the last general election in 2008.

The county election department has condensed 187 polling places into 102 after running into difficulties securing voting sites. Harrison School District 2's first day of school for the 2010-11 academic year is Aug. 10, so officials there bowed out of the election scene. Colorado Springs School District 11, which previously had 41 polling places in its schools, also exited; D-11 wanted to be reimbursed $35 per hour for custodial services, a charge election manager Liz Olson says the county didn't want to pay.

All that led election officials to look at options. "We noticed we had four to five polling places within a mile radius," Olson says, so election officials decided to congregate more precincts at the same poll locations. To avoid rental charges the county turned to churches, such as Rocky Mountain Calvary on North Academy Boulevard, which will host several precincts that used to be at Russell Middle School.

To check your polling place, because it very well might have changed since 2008, go to car.elpasoco.com/election.

The changes will save money, because only 1,000 election judges will be needed, Olson says, compared to 2,200 for the 2008 general election.

And the smaller number of judges will almost certainly see a smaller number of voters. Records show that roughly 11,000 fewer people were registered as of June 30 than were registered for the 2008 general election. The number of registered Republicans has declined by 5.5 percent and Democrats by 3.5 percent since November 2008.

Meanwhile, the number of unaffiliated voters has increased a bit, and Olson reports that the shift has been notable even within the first six months of this year. While 538 people changed from unaffiliated to the Democratic Party, and 885 switched from unaffiliated to the Republican Party, more voters are going the other way: 808 bailed on the Dems to become unaffiliated, and 1,279 abandoned the GOP for unaffiliated status.

zubeck@csindy.com

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