Colorado Rep. Mike Merrifield: You are not alone.
On election night, El Paso County elected Democrat Dennis Apuan to state House District 17, making him the only other progressive state representative from El Paso County.
The news came in the early hours of Nov. 5, following a Lycra-tight race between Apuan and Republican candidate Catherine "Kit" Roupe. Apuan won by just 380 votes, or 51.32 percent, with maybe a few dozen provisional ballots uncounted as of press time.
"Boy, I tell you, my cup of coffee never tasted any better than it did this morning," Apuan said early Wednesday. "I knew it was going to be a small margin historically, this seat is won or lost by a few hundred votes."
Apuan's win is a major score for the Democrats, who were betting they could grab this seat, in a racially and politically diverse southeast Springs district.
Apuan plans to hit the ground running. Thursday, he will meet with local Democrats for a leadership conference to elect officers. (Apuan has expressed interest in sitting on committees dealing with education, environment and the military.) Over the weekend, he's heading to a legislative leadership conference in Keystone.
He says he plans to work to give small businesses tax cuts and draw more clean energy jobs to Colorado to ease economic pressure. He also wants to work to lower health-care costs.
"I really plan to work with Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike," he says. "It's just time that we build a better future together."
Apuan's day actually didn't start off so well. One of many local voters who requested a mail-in ballot but never received one, he decided to vote by provisional ballot around 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, but that led to another problem at his polling place: He couldn't find his name or the race he was competing in on his own ballot. As he put it that morning, "I couldn't even vote for myself."
As it turned out, Apuan had erroneously been issued a ballot for a precinct in District 19; that precinct shared space at Panorama Middle School with two precincts in District 17. Apuan says he can't be sure how many other D-17 voters had been issued an incorrect ballot.
County-wide, election observers saw a few other instances of confusion at polling places. Perhaps the most common was a relaxed approach to giving out provisional ballots, which are not initially counted. Stephanie Martinez, of Colorado Springs, says she was given the misinformation that "a provisional ballot was exactly the same as a regular ballot."
Eric Drummond, an attorney and mayor of Manitou Springs, kept an eye on polls as an election observer. He says things appeared to go fairly smoothly at most polling places, and chalks up provisional ballot problems to poor training of the election judges.
A huge part of the reason why voting did go smoothly overall is that record numbers of people either voted early or via mail-in ballot. According to county Clerk and Recorder Bob Balink, of 374,399 registered voters, 153,919 requested mail-in ballots, more than doubling the record set in 2000. Another 37,198 voted early, another record. Approximately 90,000 voted at the polls Tuesday (as opposed to about 143,000 who voted there in 2004).
Early in the day, when it was unclear how many people would show up, a lot of eyes turned toward precinct No. 386, with its polling place in Slocum Hall on the Colorado College campus. According to the clerk and recorder's office, precinct No. 386 has the highest concentration of Democratic voters of all county precincts; its 823 Dems amount to 113 more than the next-bluest precinct.
And early, it was dicey over there: With only a single worker checking voters in at a registration table, voters waited for up to 90 minutes, in a line stretching around the outside of the building. Officials at Centennial Hall responded at 9:45 a.m. by providing a door clerk to assist the voters in line, and a representative of the secretary of state's office came down to monitor progress. Lines never approached 90 minutes again.
50 passes now what?
Up the pass, Colorado Amendment 50's approval is big news for Cripple Creek Mayor Dan Baader. His town stands to see big economic growth because of it.
"Everybody's happy in town," he said early Wednesday. "Certainly the casinos."
Amendment 50 allows the gambling town of Cripple Creek, as well as Black Hawk and Central City, to decide to raise the maximum wager, increase hours and add craps and roulette at its casinos. (Much of the extra gaming tax revenues will go to community colleges.) Baader suspects changes could help Cripple Creek fill vacant buildings with businesses and encourage more gaming enthusiasts to purchase second homes in the area.
But first things first: Cripple Creek will need to hold a special election to approve any changes, then wait for the Colorado Gaming Commission to adjust its oversight operations. The change might not come to pass until July.
"Right now," he says, "I just have to hold on because this is going to take some time."
Manitou wins big
The city of Manitou Springs triumphed big-time on all three of its ballot questions, with voters approving of the changes by margins above 70 percent.
Question 2A brings city election laws in line with state election laws, while Questions 2B and 2C eliminate the need for a special election in most circumstances if the mayor or a councilor leaves mid-term, allowing city council to select a replacement. The changes are expected to save the city money.
Councilor Aimee Cox says the changes are part of a larger project to change the city charter to eliminate inconsistencies and vagueness. A nine-member committee will likely be proposing other changes for voter review in future elections.
Story contributors: Meriwether Hardie, Anthony Lane, J. Adrian Stanley and Jaimie Stevenson.
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