Officials: Republicans take early lead as Colorado ballots begin trickling in

Author: Ernest Luning - October 24, 2017 - Updated: October 25, 2017

A pedestrian talks on a mobile telephone as he hands his ballot to election judge Sheila Keightley as voters drop off their ballots in the state primary election at a drive-in site outside the city's election commission headquarters Tuesday, June 28, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)In this file photo, a pedestrian hands his ballot to an election judge at a drive-in site outside election division headquarters Tuesday, June 28, 2016, in Denver. (AP File Photo/David Zalubowski)

With just over two weeks to go until Election Day, more than 36,000 voted ballots had been received by Colorado election officials by early Monday, the secretary of state’s office reported.

That’s out of the 3.36 million active registered voters in Colorado at the beginning of October — split nearly evenly between Democrats and Republicans with slightly more unaffiliated voters.

Mail ballots went out beginning a week ago, and voters have until 7 p.m. Nov. 7 to return them or to vote in person. The U.S. Postal Service recommends mailing ballots at least a week before they’re due — postmarks don’t count — to make sure they arrive in time to be counted, making this year’s deadline Oct. 31, Halloween.

Republicans and older voters were returning their ballots at a faster clip than Democrats, unaffiliated voters and youngsters, according to data released by the secretary of state, though ballots have been arriving at a trickle compared to the same point last year.

As of Monday morning, clerks reported they’d received and processed 36,387 ballots, including those cast in-person, while a year ago, as voting had just begun in the hotly contested presidential election, more than three times as many ballots — 113,932 — had been received.

Turnout in odd-year elections — known as “coordinated elections” as opposed to the even year’s General Elections — always lag, and this year is the first November election since 2009 without a statewide ballot question.

Six of Colorado’s 64 counties — Cheyenne, Dolores, Grand, Hinsdale, Mineral and Washington — aren’t even holding elections, because there are no contested races within their borders for school board, city council or local financial ballot measures.

Of the ballots logged so far this year, 14,913 were cast by Republicans, 11,633 were cast by Democrats, and 9,383 were cast by unaffiliated voters. (Last year at the same point, Democrats held the lead over Republicans by a similar margin.)

Voters 71 and older have so far voted at the fastest clip, with their 12,431 ballots accounting for fully one-third of all votes yet received, while only 799 ballots have been received from voters ages 18-25.

Men and women, incidentally, are returning ballots at a nearly identical rate.

The county with the highest turnout to date is El Paso, with 4,958 ballots received, just edging out Arapahoe and its 4,957 ballots received. Mesa County is next with 4,731, followed by Douglas County’s 3,049. (Election officials caution against reading too much into very preliminary ballot-return numbers, because procedures and reporting methods can vary greatly between counties.)

According to Lynn Bartels, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Wayne Williams, 66 percent of voters in the 2016 election dropped off their ballots at the 24-hour drop boxes maintained in every county, 27 percent sent their ballot through the mail, and 7 percent voted in person.

Voters can update their registration, check out sample ballots, determine whether to expect a mail ballot and find places to vote in person or where to drop off ballots at

The Colorado secretary of state’s office plans to update ballot-return totals every weekday until the election.

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. For nearly a decade, he was a senior political reporter and occasional editor at The Colorado Statesman before the 119-year-old publication merged with Colorado Politics in 2017.