GRAND LAKE, Colo. (CBS4) – The mountain town of Grand Lake in Grand County still stands after the East Troublesome Fire ravaged the landscape around it. The fire forced thousands to evacuate and destroyed 250 homes. But Grand County Clerk and Recorder Sara Rosene says while the county took a hit, the elections process did not.
“I really feel like as an election official, it’s our responsibility to make sure that every vote counts,” Rosene said.
As the fire grew dangerously close to Grand Lake last Wednesday, Rosene, accompanied by a sheriff’s deputy, rescued 28 ballots from the town’s only ballot drop box just in case the town wouldn’t make it.
“I have to say, without the hard work of the first responders and the sheriff’s office and the commitment to our county, that wouldn’t have happened,” Rosene said. “They are the real heroes.”
This week, the drop box reopened, and Wednesday afternoon, election judges were taking out about a dozen ballots from the box, the latest ballots dropped off by evacuees who have returned to the town.
Rosene said while many elections judges had to evacuate themselves, they are working to come back as quickly as possible to carry out their duties to ensure every ballot is checked, every vote counted.
“Really, nothing has stopped them,” Rosene said. “They continue to want to be part of the process and are part of the process.”
So far, about 5,000 people have voted in Grand County.
The town of Estes Park in Larimer County was also evacuated last week. Larimer County Clerk and Recorder Angela Myers says ballot were grabbed and drop boxes were locked when those mandatory evacuations were implemented.
“Any ballots that were in play in Estes Park were taken care of and are in our system,” Myers said. “Our hearts do go out to all of those wonderful folks in Larimer County who were affected by these two fires in Larimer County.”
Myers says the Estes Park ballot drop boxes are open again, and the Estes Park voting site will reopen Friday.
However, what happens if the fires start up again? Both Myers and Rosene said they have contingency plans.
“If those fires, heaven forbid, restart, or rekindle, become active again, we absolutely will ensure that our ballots are secured out of the ballot boxes. Highest priority is health and safety, and very close second is getting those ballots out of those boxes,” Myers said. “I have connections with our sheriff’s department to facilitate getting that access.”
So far, about 140,000 people have voted in Larimer County, according to Myers.
Both clerk and recorders say if you’re still evacuated, and you have your ballot with you, you can drop off your ballot at any drop box in the state and elections officials will make sure your ballot is shipped to the proper county.
“I’ve heard stories of folks saying, ‘I forgot the family bible, but I remembered my ballot,’ and they feel terrible for forgetting those important mementos, but ballots are very important to everyone, and they should be, I’m so excited about that,” Myers said.
Those displaced by the fires can also vote online through the Colorado Secretary of State Office’s website.
If you’re still concerned about your ballot getting counted, Myers and Rosene urge you to call them.
For residents in Larimer County, call 970-498-7820 or go to votelarimer.org.
For residents in Grand County, call 970-725-3065 or Grand County Elections..