Council could have waited until January to pick election date but informally chose the late March date on Tuesday.
Steamboat Springs City Council decided March 26 will be the date of the citywide election to decide the fate of Brown Ranch Annexation on Tuesday.
The move came as part of a discussion to certify the referendum petition submitted by the Let Steamboat Vote campaign, a step that needed to happen before Council could decide how to proceed. Council could opt to simply repeal the annexation ordinance, but there was no support on Council for that.
Council did not officially vote on holding an election or the date on Tuesday, but did take two thumbs up votes to confirm they would put annexation to a vote and that March 26 should be the date of the election. Both steps are set to happen officially at Council’s Jan. 9 meeting.
“We do want to move forward with a special election,” said Council President Gail Garey.
Council was deciding between March 19, March 26 and April 2 as potential election dates. March 19 was a potential issue because voters would likely have both their Presidential Primary ballot and Steamboat special election ballot at the same time, which could cause confusion. The drawback to April 2 was the city's hired election consultant is not available starting April 3 and wouldn’t be able to help complete the vote count.
That led to March 26 rising to the top. Ballots would be put in the mail on March 4 and start showing up in mailboxes shortly after that, though it would be after the March 5 Presidential Primary.
“I think this is such a hot topic with our community that I don’t think there’s going to be much confusion with the Presidential Primary,” said council member Michael Buccino. "They’re going to be more interested in Brown Ranch in this town.”
Some members of the Let Steamboat Vote Campaign had pushed for March 5 to be the election date, but Teak Simonton, an elections consultant the city has hired to help with the special election, said the state doesn’t allow special elections to be held on that day. Other petitioners had pushed for an even earlier vote in February, but that was not contemplated by council on Tuesday.
Simonton said the election plan for the vote needs to be submitted to the Secretary of State 90 days before the election, which lines up as Dec. 26.
Council could have waited to decide the election day until January, but that would have required Simonton to submit multiple election plans to the Secretary of State. Several council members said they felt they had enough make the decision Tuesday, rather then punting to January.
“We can’t actually call the election today, because we need a resolution and I don’t have the document in hand,” City Attorney Dan Foote said. “But yes, if you want to talk about that today and include that in your direction, I think that would be helpful.”
Simonton, a former Eagle County Clerk and Recorder, said she would work to set up the election and has already started on some aspects of it. This will include getting ballots printed, coordinating the needed election judges and supporting the city as votes are counted, among other tasks.
The city will perform signature verification for the election, a process that compares the signature of the voter on their ballot with other forms of their signature on file to verify the voter. The city will likely count votes by hand though, Foote said, meaning the results likely won’t be known as quickly as they are with regularly scheduled elections run by Routt County.
Top Photo Caption: A rendering of the Brown Ranch at full buildout. (Yampa Valley Housing Authority/Courtesy)