Election 2018Hot Sheet

More than a million Coloradans have already voted

Author: Mark Harden - November 1, 2018 - Updated: November 1, 2018

A voter drops off a ballot Oct. 28, 2018, at an Arapahoe County dropoff box in Centennial. (Mark Harden / Colorado Politics)

With five days to go before election day, 1,100,690 Coloradans have already returned their ballots, the Secretary of State’s Office announced Thursday.

And while the overall ballot-return figures at this point are running about where they were during the last midterm election in 2014, there’s a key difference this time around.

Four years ago, Republican early voters were leading Democrats by a wide margin a few days ahead of the election, with unaffiliated voters well behind each party.

This time around, the two parties are running neck and neck on ballot returns, and unaffiliated voters are not far behind, according to state data.

As of Oct. 29, 2014, six days out from that year’s Nov. 4 election, 379,250 Republicans had already voted, compared to 294,648 Democrats and 222,043 unaffiliated voters.

As of Oct. 31, 2014, four days ahead of the election, 475,677 Republicans had returned ballots, while 371,190 Democrats and 290,600 unaffiliated voters had done so.

Turn to this year. As of Thursday, the returned-ballot figures are 382,028 for Republicans, 381,411 for Democrats and 324,363 for unaffiliated voters.

That difference was cited in a pair of polls released Thursday, both of which theorized that the difference in return rates from four years ago could help DemocratJared Polis in his race for governor against Republican Walker Stapleton.

“Clearly, Democrats are voting earlier than they did in 2014, while Republicans are returning ballots more slowly than four years ago,” said Ryan Winger of GOP firm Magellan Strategies, which released one of the polls. ” … The enthusiasm gap in favor of Democrats still holds, especially when looking at these ballot returns in comparison to 2014.”

And a higher return rate by unaffiliated voters may not bode well for Republicans, either, given what happened in the June primary election — the first in which unaffiliateds were allowed to cast votes in either the Democratic or Republican primaries.

In June, unaffiliated voters cast 163,493 Democratic ballots and 98,334 Republican ballots.

“Unaffiliated voters are voting at [a] level never before seen in a midterm election in Colorado,” Winger said in a blog post. “Whether this means voters are just returning their ballots earlier, or whether there will a significant bump in the final turnout numbers, remains to be seen.”

Mark Harden

Mark Harden

Mark Harden is managing editor of Colorado Politics. He previously was news director at the Denver Business Journal; city editor, online news editor, state editor, national editor and popular music critic at The Denver Post; and an editor and reporter at newspapers in the Seattle area and San Francisco.