12 Minutes to Vote

Twelve minutes. That’s how long, on average, a random voter might spend in the booth this year – and that’s two minutes longer than state statute allows.

There is a law, it seems, for everything. Thanks to a glut of referenda and initiatives, along with races for local and statewide offices, the Nov. 7 Election Day ballot will be longer than any since 1912. And last week El Paso County Clerk & Recorder Bob Balink grabbed a handful of random volunteer “voters” to see how long it would take to maneuver through Colorado’s dense ballot this year. As originally reported in the Colorado Springs Independent, the average was 12 minutes in the booth – and one voter took 25 minutes to wade through the questions.A little known Colorado statute restricts voters to 10 minutes in the booth when a line is waiting. Though Balink doubts that he would actually kick anyone out after the specified time, he is encouraging voters to weigh in via absentee ballots, to let people spend time going over the proposals from the privacy of their own kitchen table.

This year, voters statewide are being asked to weigh in on seven citizen initiatives and another seven referenda referred by the Legislature – including term limits for judges, same-gender partnerships and legal possession of small amounts of marijuana.

In addition, in Colorado Springs numerous city and countywide issues will appear on the ballot – including two tax-slashing proposals that officials say would decimate city government parks and other programs – as well as candidates running for local and statewide offices, including governor and Congress.

Add to this, says Balink, a total of 68 different ballot styles that will appear in El Paso County alone.

“We’re trying to encourage people to vote absentee or early, and not have them potentially have to wait in long lines,” he says.

There’s another reason why Colorado voters might want to insist on voting via absentee ballot. As the New York Times reported on Saturday, officials in several states are getting “cold feet” about electronic voting machines, and are expressing concerns over the possibilites that they may lead to mistakes, or even tampering.