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Cortez, Montezuma County prepare for 2018 elections

City may play larger role in ballot counting
Jack Hattaway and Ann Gordanier judge signatures on ballots during the 2017 election.

Just a month after the end of the 2017 election in Montezuma County, local governments are gearing up for the 2018 election.

Cortez Clerk Linda Smith told the City Council during a Nov. 28 workshop that her office would be able to verify signatures in the April 3 municipal election for the first time next year, thanks to a bill passed in the Colorado legislature in 2016. Smith said she hopes it will make the election run smoother if Cortez voters’ ballots can be verified before they make it to the Montezuma County clerk’s office, although it may create more work for the city staff. Meanwhile, the county clerk’s office is facing a few changes of its own.

House Bill 16-1070 grants municipal clerks access to the statewide voter registration system, known as SCORE, for the purpose of verifying the signatures on the outside of each ballot envelope. Smith said she has already used the system to verify the signatures of candidates submitting their intent to run for office, but using it to check voter ballots will be new.

“It is a first, and it’ll be something I don’t think we’ll have an issue with, because we already know how to use the program,” she said. “We’ve just never used it for ballots.”

The new state policy allows city clerks and their staff to do the verification themselves, but Smith said it would also allow her to work with the three existing county election judges. The city and county will draft an intergovernmental agreement during the coming months that will set guidelines on how to split the work between them. Smith said she expected the City Council to vote on it in February.

Although nothing is finalized yet, both Smith and Montezuma County Clerk Kim Percell said they expect the agreement will most likely allow ballots to be verified at City Hall before they’re sent to the county office to be counted.

“Basically, what we’re going to be doing for (the city) is the tabulation,” Percell said. “That’s the big part.”

Smith said no one on her staff will be able to open the ballots or find out how residents voted. The verification process only requires them to look at the signature on the ballot envelope.

The April 3 election will bring some significant changes to the Cortez City Council. Four council member seats will be open for election, including those of two term-limited members who cannot run again. City residents will also be asked to vote on a change in the sales tax that supports the Cortez Recreation Center.

The seats open for the election belong to Jill Carlson, who will be finishing a two-year term; Orly Lucero, who will be finishing a four-year term; Bob Archibeque, who will be finishing his second four-year term and will not run again; and Shawna McLaughlin, who will also be finishing her second term. Anyone who wants to run for one of the open seats must submit a candidate petition by 5 p.m. on Jan. 22. Candidate packets will be available starting Jan. 2.

Find out more

To learn more about the upcoming Montezuma County election, go to


and click on the “Elections” tab, or contact the county clerk’s office at 970-565-3728. The office is located on 140 W. Main St., Suite 1, Cortez, and is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday through Friday.

To learn more about the Cortez election, contact the city clerk’s office at 970-564-4008. The office is located in City Hall, 123 Roger Smith Ave., and is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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