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BLOG: Election officials report steady ‘trickle’ of last-minute voters

Durango man cited for impeding Trump caravan, Indivisible worries about a coup, woman casts first ballot as U.S. citizen

Welcome to The Durango Herald’s election blog, where we bring you local updates through Election Day. You can view our full coverage of the election, including candidate profiles, stump speeches, candidate forums and more by visiting www.durangoherald.com/2020/election.

Dan Snowberger, superintendent of Durango School District 9-R, shows his support for Ballot Issue 4A on Tuesday. The measure would provide $90 million for school repairs, upgrades to security measures, a rebuild of Miller Middle School and $2.5 million for each of Durango’s three charter schools.
5:30 p.m. Tuesday – 9-R superintendent: Feedback positive on issuance of $90 million in bonds

When looking at demographics, Durango School District officials were particularly concerned about reaching out to the area’s retirees in the area – people whose children are grown and may not have a stake on whether the district gets its $90 million in new bonds.

The $90 million will go to fix a backlog in building maintenance and to improve security measures at schools.

9-R superintendent Dan Snowberger said the feedback from older voters has been positive for passage of Ballot Issue 4A.

“I was with the Rotary last week, and several of them are retired. A couple of them spoke up and said, ‘Folks, we’ve got to remember – you know, someone paid for our education. We’ve got to help our kids in our community.’ It was so nice to hear that sentiment,” he said.

5 p.m. Tuesday – In-person votes in Bayfield, Ignacio steadily trickle in

As East Coast polls close, Bayfield, Ignacio and the Southern Ute Indian Tribe reported a steady trickle of in-person voters.

La Plata County residents can vote in-person at Bayfield Town Hall and the Southern Ute Cultural Center and Museum near Ignacio.

In Bayfield, 199 people cast their vote Tuesday out of 643 total in-person votes since Oct. 26, said Tiffany Parker, La Plata County clerk.

At the museum, 55 people stopped by to vote out of 82 total voters since Monday.

“It’s been steady all day in all the sites, but not anything that’s overwhelming,” Parker said. “We’re not having issues, like voter intimidation issues. It’s been going very, very well.”

It’s been steady at the 24-hour ballot box at Farmers Fresh Market in Ignacio too, said staff member Cindy Swanemyr.

“I’ve seen a lot of people coming and dropping them off today, but that’s been going on for weeks,” Swanemyr said.

3:30 p.m. Tuesday – As election heats up, so too does Durango’s weather

As Tuesday’s election heats up, so too does Durango’s weather, which shattered previous record highs for Elections Days in recent memory.

Tuesday brought a daytime high of 70 degrees, 8 degrees warmer than the previous record set in 2012 when temperatures hit 62 degrees.

Dennis Phillips, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, pointed out that 2012 and 2020 are both extreme drought years, a likely factor in why temperatures are so high.

“I think the drought is probably helping a little bit,” he said. “That makes sense.”

A look at high temperatures during past Election Days in Durango:

Nov. 8, 2016, 61 degrees (Trump)Nov. 6, 2012, 62 degrees (Obama)Nov. 4, 2008, 56 degrees (Obama)Nov. 2, 2004, 48 degrees (George W. Bush)Nov. 7, 2000, 41 degrees (George W. Bush)Nov. 5, 1996, N/A (Clinton)Nov. 3, 1992, 43 degrees (Clinton)Nov. 7, 1988, 61 degrees (George H.W. Bush)Nov. 6, 1984, 50 degrees (Reagan)

2:30 p.m. Tuesday – Silverton shows up

Silverton is seriously showing up to the polls.

San Juan County Clerk & Recorder Ladonna Jaramillo said of the 632 ballots sent out to residents, a total of 517 had been returned as of 2:30 p.m., a nearly 82% turnout rate with more than four hours to go until polls close.

“This is the best turnout I’ve seen in many years,” Jaramillo said.

Ballots were sent to residents in early October, but the majority has been received within the past three days or so, Jaramillo said. Drop boxes have been placed in two locations in and outside of the clerk’s office, she said.

For those who want to vote in-person, Jaramillo said they can come to the Clerk’s Office to receive a ballot. Then, they can go into an adjoining room or outside to fill it out.

Jaramillo said people were going into the Clerk’s Office on Tuesday to register to vote.

“We’re having a very good turnout for this one,” she said.

1:30 p.m. Tuesday – ‘More voting is better’

Durango resident Tad Johnson took the day off from work Tuesday to stand on north Main Avenue, across from Doughworks, and encourage people to vote.

Johnson said he supports the Biden-Harris campaign, as is obvious from his sign, but his efforts were motivated by higher voting numbers.

“More voting is better,” Johnson said.

Johnson said he’s been having trouble sleeping because of his stress related to the election.

“Making signs supporting democracy was helpful,” Johnson said.

Johnson planned to stand by the side of the road for most of the day. He said he had not experienced any venom from passing cars.

Johnson said “democracy is important” and hoped as many people as possible would participate.

Seth Marvin-Vanderryn / Durango Herald - 11/03/2020 - Tad Johnson stands on North Main Avenue, across from Doughworks, encouraging people to vote.
1:20 p.m. Tuesday – Slow trickle of in-person voters

As expected, based on the high returns of ballots before Election Day, in-person voting areas in La Plata County have not been experiencing long lines. The voting center at the La Plata County Fairgrounds was experiencing a steady stream of voters, but did not experience a heavy lunchtime rush. People were not forced to wait in line for longer than a couple of minutes.

1 p.m. Tuesday – Durango man cited for impeding Trump supporters

A Durango driver was cited Tuesday on suspicion of interfering with Trump supporters who were driving pickups with Trump flags in tow.

The traffic stop occurred about 11:15 a.m. in the 1100 block of East Second Avenue, right in front of a drop-off box at the La Plata County Administration Building. The scene drew several onlookers.

The incident began near 31st Street and Main Avenue where Paul Kokes, 25, driving a silver Subaru station wagon, pulled in front of the caravan of pickup trucks and slowed down to about 5 mph, said Cmdr. Ray Shupe, with the Durango Police Department.

The pickups, traveling south, tried to go around the Subaru, but Kokes kept switching lanes to prevent them from going around him, Shupe said. Near 15th Street, the pickups turned left, and Kokes drove across several lanes of traffic to get in front of them again.

Kokes apparently pulled over on his own volition in the 1100 block of East Second Avenue, where a Durango Police Department officer pulled up behind him, Shupe said.

“Apparently there is video of the incident that officers were able to obtain from witnesses,” Shupe said. “A citation was issued for impeding normal flow of traffic.”

Paul Kokes, 25, in the silver Subaru, has some final parting words with Trump supporters Tuesday on East Second Avenue in Durango. Kokes was cited with impeding traffic for allegedly driving slowly and interfering with a caravan of Trump supporters. The traffic stop attracted at least four law enforcement officers in the 1100 block of East Second Avenue, in front of a ballot drop-off location.
12:30 p.m. Tuesday – Clerk and Recorder starts big day with Pledge of Allegiance

La Plata County Clerk and Recorder Tiffany Parker led a group from the local chapter of the Boys and Girls Club of America in a Pledge of Allegiance at 6:45 a.m. on Election Day in the parking lot of the Clerk and Recorder’s Office. A number of voters were already waiting in line for voting to open at 7 a.m.

Since voting centers opened, Parker said there has been a steady stream of voters in Bayfield, the La Plata County Fairgrounds and the County Clerk and Recorder’s Office in Durango. The voting centers at Fort Lewis College and in Ignacio, which are new this election, have been slow. As of 10:30 a.m., 74% of active voters had submitted ballots in La Plata County.

Parker said there have been no incidents of voter intimidation, but she is working with the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office and the Durango Police Department to ensure ballot boxes and voting centers stay intimidation- and campaign-free. Areas have been setup, more than 100 feet from service centers, where residents can gather to peacefully protest, including at the clerk’s office and the fairgrounds.

Voting closes at 7 p.m. tonight. Anyone who is in line to vote before 7 p.m. will receive a time stamp on their hand to ensure they are able to vote. Ballot drop boxes will be locked at 7 p.m. Parker expects first results to be released around 7:30 p.m.

12:15 p.m. Tuesday – Face coverings not required, but refusal slows down voting process

Two in-person voters refused to wear facial coverings at the La Plata County Clerk and Recorder’s Office, said Tiffany Parker, clerk and recorder. Voters aren’t required to wear face coverings to vote, but refusal to wear facial coverings slows down the voting process, because other voters are not allowed to enter while non-mask wearers are voting in an effort to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Regardless, election judges sanitize voting machines after each use.

3:15 p.m. Monday – Casting her first ballot as an American citizen

Giedre Tarnauskaite, who immigrated to America from Lithuania, cast her first ballot as an American citizen on Monday at the drop-off box at the Fort Lewis College Community Concert Hall.

“My husband made fun of me because I took so long to fill out the ballot,” Tarnauskaite said. “Somehow, I felt it was all on my shoulders, and I shouldn’t mess it up.”

Tarnauskaite, head volleyball coach at FLC, said she was unprepared for the races below the federal level on the ballot, and that also contributed to her delay in returning the ballot.

“It wasn’t so easy to fill out. I don’t go one way or the other. I listen to everyone and I base my decision on that,” she said.

The entire volleyball team made it a point to register to vote.

“We did a little voter drive push,” she said.

Giedre Tarnauskaite, who immigrated to the United States form Lithuania, takes a selfie before depositing her first ballot as an American citizen on Monday at the ballot box drop-off box at the Fort Lewis College Community Concert Hall parking lot. Tarnauskaite, FLC head volleyball coach, said she listens to everybody before making her decision on candidates and issues. “My husband made fun of me because I took so long to fill out the ballot,” she said.
2:40 p.m. Monday – La Plata County 13th for percentage of ballots returned

La Plata County ranks 13th out of Colorado’s 64 counties for highest percentage of ballots returned.

Seventy-one percent of active voters had returned ballots as of early Monday in La Plata County, making it the 13th highest rate in the state.

Vote totals won’t be known until after 7 p.m. Tuesday, but based on party affiliation, 37% of returned ballots are from unaffiliated voters, 35% are from Democrats and 27% are from Republicans. The remainder are from minor parties. Here’s the breakdown:

ACN: 60

APV: 14

DEM: 10,094

GRN: 79

LBR: 277

REP: 7,879

UAF: 10,682

UNI: 10

Total: 29,095

The three counties with the highest percentage of returned ballots as of Monday were Chaffee, Boulder and Ouray, all of which had 77% voter turnout.

Statewide, 68% of active voters had returned ballots as of Monday. Of those, 37% are unaffiliated, 34% are registered Democrats and 28% are Republicans.

Indivisible Durango supporters took to the streets in June 2017 at Camino del Rio and College Drive protesting the American Health Care Act. A “Call to Action” sent to local supporters Monday urges them to be prepared, if necessary, to stop a coup involving the presidential election. Specifically, the group says be prepared to march down Main Avenue in Durango.
12:40 p.m. – Indivisible Durango preps to oppose possible coup

Indivisible Durango, the local chapter of the political action group established to resist the political movement to the right after the election of Donald Trump, has issued a “Call to Action” alerting members to “Be prepared to take Action if needed to stop a Coup.”

According to the notice: “Trump has been threatening to not accept the results of the election. He is threatening our democracy and may be trying to stage a coup.”

The Call to Action emailed to supporters calls for a protest to support democracy and the result of the Nov. 3 General Election.

According to the Call to Action “if needed, we will march down Main Ave to Buckley Park.”

The notice tells supporters if further action is needed additional Calls to Actions will be sent out.

The notice tells supporters:

“1. Do not expect results on Election Night. Call it Election Week.

“2. People who do power grabs always claim they’re doing it to save democracy or claim they know the ‘real’ election results. This doesn’t have to look like a military coup with one leader ordering the opposition to be arrested.”

It also offers tips to supporters that will inform them that a coup is underway. According to the notice a coup is underway if the government:

“1. Stops counting votes;

“2. Declares someone a winner who didn’t get the most votes; or

“3. Allows someone to stay in power who didn’t win the election.”

CALL TO ACTION STAY ALERT PROTECT OUR DEMOCRACY PROTECT THE RESULTS NAME OF ISSUE: Be prepared to take Action if...

Posted by Indivisible- Durango on Sunday, November 1, 2020
12:15 p.m. Monday – Election 2020: How to vote

Ballots were mailed to voters Oct. 9 in La Plata County. If you didn’t receive a ballot or you want to register to vote, voters should go to the Clerk and Recorder’s Office to get a replacement ballot or to register to vote.

And if you haven’t already mailed your ballot, it’s too late; Clerk and Recorder Tiffany Parker said voters should now take their ballots to one of five drop-off boxes instead of mailing them to ensure they arrive by 7 p.m. Tuesday, the deadline for receipt of ballots.
Drop-off boxes across the county are at:

Clerk and Recorder’s Office, 679 Turner Drive, Durango.Bayfield Town Hall, 1199 Bayfield Parkway, Bayfield.La Plata County Administration Building, 1101 East Second Ave., Durango.Community Concert Hall, at Fort Lewis College 1000 Rim Drive, Durango.Farmers Fresh Market, 535 Goddard Ave., Ignacio.For those who prefer to cast their ballots in person, Voter Service Polling Centers are set up at the clerk’s office and at Bayfield Town Hall.

Also, three additional Voter Service Polling Centers opened Monday and Tuesday at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College; the Southern Ute Cultural Center and Museum, 503 Ouray Drive in Ignacio; and La Plata County Fairgrounds, 2500 Main Ave. in Durango.

11:30 a.m. Monday – La Plata County commissioner candidates report finances

The last campaign finance filings before Tuesday’s election show La Plata County commissioner candidates devoting significant sums of money toward advertising.

The report shows campaign fundraising and spending from Oct. 9 to Oct. 25.

District 2

During this time period, Marsha Porter-Norton, a Democrat running for District 2, raised about $6,730, all from private donors, and spent $16,980, mostly on advertising. One notable contribution was $500 from Colorado’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet.

For the election, Porter-Norton raised about $70,400 and spent $65,900. She has about $4,490 on hand.

Her opponent, Jack Turner, who is running as an unaffiliated candidate, raised about $5,350 and spent $8,420, mostly on advertising, during this reporting period.

Notable contributions include a little more than $2,000 from James Coleman, who owns Purgatory Resort, and his wife, Tonia; $2,500 from Nashville-resident Rick Carlton; and $100 from Durango School District 9-R superintendent Dan Snowberger.

For the election, Turner has raised about $44,330 and taken a $2,500 loan, and spent $46,000. He has about $840 on hand.

District 3

In the race for District 3, Charly Minkler, running unaffiliated, raised about $1,230 during this reporting period, all from private donors, and spent about $4,750, mostly on advertising.

For the election, Minkler has raised about $27,480 and took a $7,000 loan, and spent about $31,500. He has about $3,500 on hand.

His opponent, Matt Salka, a Democrat, reported he raised about $910 and spent about $5,200, mostly on advertising and mailers. One notable contribution was about $200 from Bennet and $100 from Conservation Colorado Action Fund.

For the election, Salka has raised about $17,400 and spent $16,700. He has about $686 on hand.

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