For Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder Gilbert Ortiz, there is little time for frivolity. Over the weekend, when his high school alma mater was playing its big, cross-town rival in a game he rarely misses, he was in his County Courthouse office making sure that this election would run perfectly.
For the last 45 days, Ortiz and his staff have been on their toes mailing out ballots, ensuring they’re acceptable when they come in and tabulating results. As of the last week of October, the trends, he said, are pretty one-sided. But when all is said and done, that will certainly change. “Forty-three percent of the total vote are Democrat,” he said in a Friday morning conversation. “Twenty-eight percent are Republican, and 29 percent are Independent.”
Early results should not, Ortiz cautioned, portend any signs that Democrats are winning any particular races. “They’re telling me that the Democrats showed up early and that we got a lot of Democratic ballots in the first ten days. We’re still expecting a large Republican turnout.”
Ortiz said Presidential Elections always translate to big turnouts. The county sent out 111,000 mail-in ballots. “I would be disappointed if we didn’t hit 90,000 voters.”
Since 2013, Colorado has gone to mail-in voting. But for the first time, Ortiz and his state counterparts are dealing with the specter of doubt in the process. That cloud over the process was planted early on by President Trump who said mail-in voting was rife with cheating and mishandling. He has tried to suppress it whenever he has had the opportunity, despite the fact that he voted by mail in Florida, his new home state.
Ortiz, who is serving his third term as Pueblo County’s Clerk and Recorder, would not speculate on any races. His only job, he said, is to make sure that the process is honest and open at each of the county’s eight polling sites. But this year Ortiz is being watchful that outsiders, individuals following President Trump’s suggestion that his supporters monitor polling sites to ensure an honest election. “I would call the police if someone showed up to make sure that each person is allowed to be there.”
Once a Democratic and union town stronghold, the county has moved from shade of deep blue to one more purplish. In 2016, for the first time in decades, a Republican won the county’s Presidential vote. That may not be the case this year in Pueblo nor many other places as it was in 2016 when infatuation with Trump peaked.
Patience Ruiz, a sports activity director, voted early. She initially supported Pete Buttigieg but was happy to vote for Joe Biden. “I feel strongly about defeating Trump,” she said. “I don’t think the country can withstand another four years of hate and discrimination being promoted by the top legislative power in the country.”
Brad Teter, 22, a FedEx worker, cast his first vote ever, also for Biden. “I don’t like the way he (Trump) answers questions,” he said. He said Trump’s answers are often disrespectful. Teter’s also a Type-1 diabetic and said he hope Biden can strengthen the health care law.
The long hours Ortiz has been logging will be extended this week. “I’ll be working 19 hours on Tuesday,” he said. Overtime for he and his staff also won’t be out of the question the rest of the week ensuring that even the little things are done right.
One of those things he’s already checked off. The “I Voted” stickers that all voters receive were ready at each of the county’s eight polling sites. “I ordered 100,000. We always overestimate but we should have one for every ballot sent out.”