Tuesday marked the end of a chapter in a bitter, contentious election season, but despite the vitriol displayed in campaigns across the country, Election Day in La Plata County was relatively calm.
Clerk and Recorder Tiffany Parker, who oversees local elections, began her day by leading a group of children, parents and board members from the Boys and Girls Club in the Pledge of Allegiance at 6:45 a.m. Polling centers opened at 7 a.m.
La Plata County started the day ranked 13th out of Colorado’s 64 counties for highest percentage of ballots returned. As of Tuesday night, at least 82% of active voters had returned ballots.
This year’s election had higher in-person voting numbers than in 2016 in La Plata County, Parker said. In 2016, 2,293 people voted in person compared with 2,715 this year. But thanks to early voting, last-minute voters didn’t face long waits Tuesday to cast ballots. La Plata County had two new voter service and polling centers this election cycle: at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College and at the Southern Ute Cultural Center and Museum in Ignacio. The voting center at FLC experienced a lunchtime rush, while the voting center in Ignacio was the slowest.
Jeff Cary and Richard Fultner, election judges stationed at the fairgrounds, were surprised how calm things were at the voting center. Cary described the interactions between people as “jovial.”
Cary and Fultner said the Durango Police Department and the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office “ran a tight ship” trying to dissuade voter intimidation. Law enforcement did frequent sweeps of the area and had officers stationed at voting centers.
Candidates for county commissioner employed the same tactics they used during the run-up to Election Day. Marsha Porter-Norton, a Democrat running for District 2, spent the day waving to drivers as they passed the DoubleTree Hotel, 501 Camino del Rio in Durango. Her opponent, unaffiliated candidate Jack Turner, drove through town with a trailer adorned with campaign signs.
In the District 3 race, unaffiliated candidate Charly Minkler spent the day at work while his Democratic opponent Matt Salka waved at passing cars. All candidates said they planned to spend election night at home, forgoing any Election Day parties because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Salka and Porter-Norton, who were outside for the majority of the day, were greeted by unseasonably warm weather. The previous high temperature for an Election Day in recent history was set in 2012 when the mercury reached 62 degrees and President Barack Obama won re-election. Tuesday’s high was 70.
Despite the quiet day at the polls, Election Day emotions still ran high for some. A caravan of pickup trucks flying Trump flags made several laps through Durango during the day. Around midday, Paul Kokes, 25, was issued a citation for interfering with the caravan. Near 31st Street and Main Avenue, Kokes pulled in front of the caravan and slowed down to about 5 mph and then moved in front of the trucks each time they tried to pass, according to the Durango Police Department.
Kokes was issued a citation for impeding normal flow of traffic, according to the police department.
Durango resident Tad Johnson stood near north Main Avenue, across from Doughworks, with a homemade sign encouraging people to vote. Johnson’s sign had one simple word on it, “vote.” However, the “e” in vote was painted the same as Biden-Harris posters. Johnson said he is a Biden supporter, but his main motivation was to get people to vote.