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Make informed choices this November

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Linda Rockwell

You’ve probably seen a T-shirt or a poster that says, “Bad politicians are elected by good people who don’t vote.” Here’s an example close to home:
Our current county assessor was elected in 2014 in spite of the fact that he had thousands of dollars in liens for non-payment of federal and state taxes. The Canyon Courier and the Denver Post reported this, and the then-chair of the Jeffco Republicans asked him to withdraw his candidacy. The Democratic candidate was eminently qualified.  
More than 160,000 registered Jeffco voters didn’t vote at all that year. Of those who did cast ballots, more than 28,000 didn’t vote in this race. The Democrat lost by 15,000 votes.
In about three weeks, our ballots will start arriving in the mail. We’ll be asked to choose a new member of Congress, a governor, other state officials, a state representative and state senator, and decide on a dozen ballot issues and several requests for tax increases. Also on the ballot — near the bottom — are candidates for Jefferson County office.
There are 10 countywide elected officials: three commissioners, a district attorney, a clerk and recorder, a treasurer, an assessor, a sheriff, a coroner and a surveyor. The district attorney and two of the commissioners are elected in presidential years; the other seven will be on the ballot this year. All serve four-year terms and are limited to two terms.
County commissioners have a broad sweep of powers and control a $556 million budget. They make planning, zoning and land-use decisions, and are responsible for the agencies that repair and plow our roads, manage our beloved open spaces, provide human services, safeguard public health, oversee our libraries and promote economic development.
Our sheriff is responsible for all law enforcement outside Jeffco’s cities; he also administers the jail, issues permits for concealed weapons and supervises Animal Control. This department spends about one-fourth of the county’s budget, more than any other.
While the commissioners and the sheriff bear responsibility for our quality of life and our safety, the clerk and recorder protects something just as vital — our right to vote. The clerk maintains voter rolls and conducts most elections in the county. We want our elections to be fair, accurate, and accessible to all — and free of interference from those who would undermine our democracy. This office also registers motor vehicles, issues marriage licenses and records property documents.
The official who most directly affects our personal finances is the assessor. The value he or she assigns to our homes determines the amount of property taxes we pay.  
The treasurer serves as the county’s banker — collecting taxes, investing the money until it is needed and disbursing it in accordance with the county budget.
The coroner’s office is charged with making a legal determination of the cause of accidental and violent deaths. It also offers assistance to victims’ families.
These office-holders serve a county of close to 600,000 people — about the size of the state of Wyoming. The decisions they make directly affect our quality of life, our safety and our pocketbooks. Yet about 10 percent of people who return their ballots make no choice for these important positions, and a whopping 38 percent of registered voters haven’t voted at all in the last two midterm elections.
We have almost three weeks from the time we receive our ballots till we have to return them. You don’t even need a stamp. There are 14 24-hour drop boxes scattered around the county; one is at the Evergreen Library.
Take the time to make informed choices on all the candidates, ballot issues and proposals for tax increases before you. Be the good person who elects good people to public office.

Linda Rockwell moved to Evergreen with her family in 1982. She got involved in local land-use issues in 1984 and in the Democratic Party a few years later. She served as chair of the Jeffco Democrats from 1993 to 1997. Good government and principled politics remain her passion.