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Uncovering La Plata County’s election non-conspiracy

Here is a pretty purple bordered envelope and one with red coloring. Mmm, good. (NOT a Conspiracy Theorist)

Dear Action Line: Question about voting: I recently changed my affiliation while the spouse retained his already unaffiliated status. I inadvertently checked a box where I only get the Republican ballot (which I will change later) and as we were closing up the ballots to deliver, noticed they were color-coded in some way. Now, why would this be? Wouldn’t that make it easier to flag certain ballots if you were prone to some voter shenanigans? (Not that that would ever happen in OUR democracy!) What’s the skinny? – NOT a Conspiracy Theorist

Dear Not: So, you don’t think that La Plata County is doing this just for fun? Or maybe to mess with our minds a little bit? Or shall we fret, Not?

Action Line was pretty certain that the ballot with a purple (lavender) border had grape-tasting glue on the envelope flap. Made sense: It’s an incentive to make sure those ballots are fully licked and stay secure and can’t easily be opened.

Tiffany Lee, La Plata County’s clerk and recorder and official election overseer, had a different explanation.

“Great question,” she responded. “Yes there is (a good reason). Lavender is for unaffiliated voters and the red flag is for major parties.”

Furthermore, she added, there is a brown bar on some envelopes that indicates “ID required.” It means the voter has never given the county any ID, which the county must obtain before counting the ballot. A blue bar is for military and overseas voters.

“Also, we are required to identify which party ballot an unaffiliated voter casts. The color helps us to sort these. We never know how someone votes but we still need to flag their record as to which ballot they selected. No shenanigans. We have used color coding for years.”

Lee concluded: “It helps our election judges and staff process the ballots correctly. Thank you for asking!”

You can believe Lee’s explanation if you choose. It seems plausible. But she may just be uninformed on the glue flavoring. Ballots with the red flags obviously taste like cherry, blue tastes like blueberry, and brown tastes like … Action Line better not use the word, but it’s how most envelope glue tastes.

Dear Action Line: We live downtown in the Grid and have always enjoyed the bells ringing from the County Courthouse marking the time of day. For the last couple of weeks, those bells have been silent. Is this hopefully due to maintenance, and a temporary condition, or have they been silenced for some other reason? – Concerned About Time

Dear Concerned: What? Durango has a “Grid,” uppercase? Might have to revisit that, but let’s focus on the clock today.

La Plata County spokesman Ted Holteen has a sense of humor, so Action Line at first thought his response was a joke. But no. The chime – at least temporarily – has been purposely turned off!

“Indeed, we are experimenting with silence from the courthouse bell this summer in response to some downtown complaints,” Holteen said. “It is a pilot program and we may resume chimes post-Labor Day.”

The clock was first installed by the county in 1891, and although it is a bit persnickety and doesn’t always ring exactly on time, has been a fixture since being reinstalled in the “new” courthouse in the 1980s. It’s a bit of Durango history that many of us don’t want to lose. Holteen and Action Line got a close-up look at the inner workings during a tour less than a year ago for another Action Line question.

“We had ideas that maybe the chimes could be suspended overnight, etc., but as you know firsthand it is no small task to disconnect and reconnect the bell on a whim,” Holteen said. “We will have to decide as a community whether the chimes will remain a part of daily life once this experiment comes to a close at the end of the summer.”

Action Line and Holteen don’t agree on everything. For instance, he’s a bit jealous of the success of our local hockey club and still calls the Avs the Nordiques. (They moved from Quebec to Denver back in 1995, when both Action Line and Holteen were children. Get over it, Ted.) But we do wholeheartedly agree about the clock.

Quebec Nordiques logo

“As an individual who lives downtown, I happen to love the chimes (chronological accuracy notwithstanding), and the fact that anyone is complaining about something that predates every living person in La Plata County is the kind of thing that gets ol’ Ted pretty riled up.”

And you know what can happen when a hockey fan gets riled up.

Reservoir Ridge follow-up

Last week, Action Line wrote about a map that used “Reservoir Ridge” to identify what used to be called Raider Ridge and is now of course officially “Action Line Ridge.”

Durango native Ann Emigh pointed out that what we now call College Hill was once called Reservoir Hill before the college moved from south of Hesperus in 1957.

“When I was a kid, locals called the hill ‘Reservoir Hill’ because that’s where the reservoirs were located,” she told Action Line. “I don’t remember what the ridge to the east of the college was called; perhaps Reservoir Ridge, but perhaps not.”

Email questions and suggestions to actionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. Action Line is really hoping the 2024 ballots are orange and taste like mango.

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