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Surprises in store 

Polling places overwhelmed in big loss for radicals

click to enlarge El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Bob Balink expressed - disappointment with his departments performance in - Tuesdays elections, during which several polling places - ran out of ballots. - DAN WILCOCK
  • Dan Wilcock
  • El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Bob Balink expressed disappointment with his departments performance in Tuesdays elections, during which several polling places ran out of ballots.

Voters reportedly stood in line for hours due to ballot shortages at polling places across El Paso County, but nonetheless contributed to what some political observers say was a huge loss for the county's Republican Party machine.

A slate of three pro-privatization school board candidates in Colorado Springs School District 11, the city's largest school district, was defeated. Meanwhile, statewide, a referendum allowing the state to keep and spend up to $3.7 billion in tax refunds passed.

The results mean "a lot more support for state government and institutions than was reflected before [in El Paso County]," said John Straayer, a political science professor at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

And that support came in overwhelming numbers, with around 34 percent of registered voters casting ballots.

County officials said a lack of ballots in up to 90 of the county's 385 voting districts resulted from a poor guess as to how many people would vote.

"Good lord, I'm totally disappointed with what happened here," County Clerk and Recorder Bob Balink said on election night, fearing that some voters walked away in frustration.

In D-11, "The attempt to partisanize the School District 11 race apparently didn't work," said Bob Loevy, a Colorado College political science professor.

D-11 school board president Sandy Shakes described the outcome as "a new day for the Republican Party of El Paso County."

"We need to start listening to the public, and not the rich millionaires running the county," she said.

Also on Tuesday, voters approved property tax increase measures to make repairs and build new schools in District 11 and Falcon District 49.

"This was about saving our local schools," said Mary Ellen McNally, a longtime Republican who spearheaded the D-11 bond issue and has opposed her party's involvement in the school board races.

Local voters rejected statewide Referenda C and D, measures designed to fix the state's budget from shortfalls created by the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights. But the less-than-resounding nature of their defeat may have contributed to C's passage statewide.

The overall results marked an erosion of the influence of the religious right and anti-tax conservatives after a decade and a half when they gained strength, Straayer said.

"They're getting a little close to the end of their string," he said. "It should buoy the hopes of the Democrats in holding the House and Senate [next year]."

-- Dan Wilcock

  • Polling places overwhelmed in big loss for radicals

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