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Gazette Premium Content Few glitches as area polling places open for voting, turnout appears strong

MATT STEINER and TOM ROEDER Updated: November 2, 2010 at 12:00 am

Five minutes before the polls were to open Tuesday, four people arrived at Mountain View Presbyterian Church anticipating the announcement.

"The polls are officially open," one election worker called out. Three more voters had joined the early birds.

The small group found a smiling face greeting them for what many are calling a pivotal election.

Lucile Dorsey, 81, who says she's been working elections for at least 50 years, stood near the door cutting apart "I Voted" stickers and sharing stories of elections past.

"I just couldn't say who the candidates were in my first election," Dorsey said. "It's been such a long time."

Dorsey, who has lived in Colorado Springs since 1967, found the atmosphere at the church a bit different from her experience at the Citadel Mall polling location two years ago. She said there were lines "going everywhere" for that one, noting a large number of first-time voters.

The first voter Dorsey greeted Tuesday was Kathryn Funk, who lives close to the church at 2520 Arlington Drive in southeast Colorado Springs.

Funk, who works at ITT near Fountain Boulevard and Jet Wing Drive, made it a point to get to the polling place early.

"We have no idea how much voting affects the direction of our country," she said. "I didn't want to get consumed by work."

SOME LAST-MINUTE CAMPAIGNING

U.S. Senate Rivals Ken Buck and Michael Bennet each worked to grab Colorado Springs votes this morning.

Buck, a Republican, waved to rush hour commuters on Powers Boulevard as the sun rose.

Bennet, the Democratic incumbent, stumped the city's west side, hitting a few Old Colorado City eateries to ask for votes.

Republicans are confident of big wins today.

But Democrats aren't hanging their heads yet.

Christy Le Lait, executive director of the El Paso County Democrats said she was hearing that Democrats were swarming polling places to help Bennet and others.

"If Democrats vote, Democrats win," Le Lait said.

A FEW HITCHES

The election hit a few snags in southwest Colorado Springs as voters were given the wrong ballot.

Voters at three precincts at Cheyenne Mountain Elementary School received the wrong ballots, ones without any of the three Colorado Springs questions, said Liz Olson, elections manager for the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder’s Office.

She said that she was not sure how many people were affected by the problem, which has since been fixed.

Elena Steiner said she noticed the city ballot measures were missing after she finished filling out her ballot about 11 a.m.. When she asked why they weren't on her ballot, she said poll workers initially told her it was because she lived in the county. Later, the county Elections Office admitted the ballots were in error.

When she returned to the precinct, Steiner was given a provisional ballot that included the three city questions — an option still open to people who were given wrong ballots, Olson said.

The three questions focused on the city’s open space program as well as a proposal to reshape the city’s government.

Question 2B asked if voters would allow Colorado Springs to keep up to $600,000 in excess revenue collected in 2009 to spend on high priority road and bridge repairs and public safety services.

Question 2C asks voters to let the city use a bigger percentage of money from the Trails, Open Space and Parks sales tax on park maintenance.

Question 300, known as the “strong mayor” measure, proposed remaking the city’s government by giving the mayor broad new powers and making City Council the legislative branch of the city’s government. The city manager would then be demoted.

It was one of a couple problems Tuesday. At 10 a.m., El Paso County Clerk Bob Balink was reporting mostly smooth sailing for the midterm elections.

Balink said the only glitch to that point had occurred at the Broadmoor Community Church polling place. Balink and his team had to quickly print a new precinct poll book, which is needed to help verify voters' identification. They learned about the missing poll book at about 7:30 a.m.

Those who showed up at the church bright and early were required to fill out provisional ballots until the new book arrived.

"That's just annoying because we know it was picked up yesterday," Balink said.

The books were printed Friday after early voting ended. An election judge was assigned to get the book to the polling place.

A BUSY START FOR SOME

Just before 9 a.m., the lines at Front Range Alliance Church, 5210 Centennial Blvd. in northwest Colorado Springs, were about 15 people long.

Polling place coordinator Brett Bartleson said they'd probably had more than 100 voters in the first 90 minutes and about 30 lined up before the polls opened at 7 a.m.

Bartleson, who was working his fourth election, had an air of nervousness about him as he tended to things at the polling place for five precincts. He said it was his first experience with multiple precincts at one place.

"They're consolidating a lot more," he said.

Balink said all the El Paso County locations have multiple precincts this year, noting that some of the bigger ones have 10 or more.

AT FIRST GLANCE, TURNOUT LOOKS STRONG

No numbers yet, but from the number of voters calling county election officials and scores lined up to cast ballots downtown, turnout looks big this year said Liz Olson, elections manager for the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office.

Outside the clerk's office, voters were dropping off mail ballots at a brisk pace.

Volunteer Jim Ivy, who greets voters curbside and trades an "I Voted" sticker for each ballot, said the turnout looks large in 2010.

"It's bigger than I've seen it," he said.

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