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Some Douglas County precincts are bursting at the seams, officials say. So, voters can expect changes to certain precincts once the county implements new boundaries come February, in time for the 2018 primary and general elections.
“We are in substantial growth in Douglas County and this is just one of the aspects of growth,” Douglas County Clerk and Recorder Merlin Klotz said.
The Douglas County Board of Commissioners approved plans to change precinct boundaries on Dec. 19, although as Chairman Roger Partridge remarked, they didn't have much choice.
State law allows the county a maximum of 2,000 registered voters in each precinct. Klotz said his office reviews population levels every two years to determine which precincts are nearing that limit. They also look at where development is occurring to predict where growth is coming.
County legal staff explained that once officials are aware precincts have reached or outgrown the 2,000-person maximum, they are required to act. Failure to do so could result in a misdemeanor, with a penalty of fines or jail time.
Klotz said the county's number of registered voters has grown approximately 17 percent, or about 35,000 people. Boundaries were last redrawn in 2015 when the number of precincts went up from 145 to 155.
In 2018, they'll jump to 168.
The process of determining which precinct boundaries to adjust and where to create new precincts altogether involved the clerk and recorder's office, the county demographer, GIS representatives and leaders from each of the county's registered parties.
That team identified areas like Sierra Ridge and Stepping Stone as needing new boundaries. The sizable Sterling Ranch development did not affect precinct boundaries this year, but likely will when boundaries are redrawn next, Klotz said.
“The next time, Sterling Ranch will probably do some slicing of precincts over there just because I expect them to be selling a substantial amount of houses,” Klotz said.
The county cannot change boundaries again until 2020, he explained, because current precincts will be used for the next census. And at the county's pace of growth, Klotz said, he's certain there will again be changes to precincts when that time comes.
“It's your guess as to what we're going to be in 2020,” Klotz said.
He added that the process of mapping out precincts can be tedious. Boundaries should follow natural barriers, they shouldn't overlap state House or Senate or county commissioner district lines or other similar boundaries.
With Colorado's status as a mail-in ballot state, however, Klotz said the need for precincts has “diminished greatly.”
“It used to be a major function of the election itself,” Klotz said. “Today, it's basically for the census and party needs.”
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