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Timnath voters narrowly choose to delay redistricting, pending recount

A ballot drop box in Fort Collins. A record 40,000 residents cast votes in Tuesday's municipal election.
Stacy Nick
A ballot drop box

Voters in the small, Northern Colorado town of Timnath appear to have narrowly passed a ballot measure that delays redistricting plans for several more years. Ballot question 3H asked voters to weigh in on when the town would shake up council elections, add council seats and create separate council districts.

Currently four at-large council members represent the fast-growing town of Timnath. The town’s Home Rule Charter, approved by voters in 2015, includes a provision to add two council seats and establish 3 separate council districts once the number of registered voters in town exceeds 8,000. Ballot question 3H moves that goalpost to 15,000 registered voters.

Timnath is growing rapidly. It is likely that the town could meet the 8,000 registered voter threshold before the next council election in April, 2024. The town will not likely see 15,000 registered voters for as many as 8 to 10 years down the road.

Redistricting can’t happen soon enough for Wade Fickler. He lives in Old Town Timnath, a downtown area that has not seen representation in town council in recent years. Fickler says that lack of representation in town council has meant that the needs and interests of the Old Town community have been ignored. “The point of voter districts is to create more geographic representation and more diverse representation” Fickler said.

According to Fickler, the ballot question was unnecessary. He argues that it just reopened an issue that has already been settled. “It's an attempt by the town council to override a voter approved charter change from 2015,” he said.

But Timnath officials, who put the question on the ballot, say that isn’t the case at all. Town Manager Aaron Adams says that there just hasn’t been enough interest in town council seats to justify adding seats and districts.

“At our last election we had two seats that were open. And we had three people who ran for those two seats,” Adams said, referring to a town council election last April. “And so I think from the Council's perspective, there is concern that there may not be enough candidates to represent all the districts of the town.”

Adams says that puts the existing council members in a tough position. They don’t want to create new districts without candidates interested in stepping up to represent them. “When you don't have folks who are running for those seats, then they're put into a position where they have to appoint somebody,” Adams said, adding that they would rather not be forced to make appointments.

On election night, voters very narrowly favored delaying the redistricting plans until the 15,000 registered voter threshold. The measure passed by just 8 votes, out of nearly 4,300 ballots cast, making it the only ballot measure in Larimer County to end up within the threshold for the state’s mandatory automatic recount.

The recount is scheduled for December 1st.

Larimer County Clerk and Recorder Angela Meyers described the recount as a two-step process. All of the ballots from Timnath will be recounted electronically. Ballots that have abnormal markings - say a voter marked both "yes" and "no" options on the ballot question, or circled their preference instead of filling in the bubble - get flagged for an extra step: adjudication.

"Adjudication is when a bipartisan team of judges look at the digital image of the ballot to determine the voter intent," Meyers explained.

But Meyers doesn't expect a surprise ending for ballot question 3H. "this is quite a wide spread: eight," she said. "This is just another reminder to every single voter that every single vote matters."

I am the Rural and Small Communities Reporter at KUNC. That means my focus is building relationships and telling stories from under-covered pockets of Colorado.
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