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Older voters dominate Colorado ballot returns as Election Day approaches

Author: Ernest Luning - October 27, 2017 - Updated: October 27, 2017

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An elections judge prepares a tray of ballots for the sorting machine during a media tour of the Denver Elections Division headquarters Friday, Oct. 28, 2016, in Denver. Elections Division officials highlighted the number of safeguards in place to prevent the casting of multiple ballots or voting in more than one polling center in person. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)An elections judge prepares a tray of ballots for the sorting machine during a media tour of the Denver Elections Division headquarters Friday, Oct. 28, 2016, in Denver. Elections Division officials highlighted the number of safeguards in place to prevent the casting of multiple ballots or voting in more than one polling center in person. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Voters over age 60 are casting their ballots at a fast clip, accounting for almost 60 percent of the total ballots returned through Thursday morning, according to Colorado election officials.

With 12 days until Election Day — and just five days until the U.S. Postal Service and Colorado secretary of state’s office recommend mailing ballots to ensure they’re received in time — county clerks reported receiving 236,367 ballots. That total includes ballots received at 24-hour drop-off locations around the state, those cast at vote centers and those sent by mail.

So far, 140,597 of the ballots received — 59.4 percent — belong to Coloradans 61 and over, roughly 20 percent of the state’s population but typically a cohort that votes in higher numbers than youngsters.

There were 3.36 million active registered voters in Colorado at the beginning of October, roughly one-third Republicans, one-third Democrats and one-third unaffiliated voters, with slightly more of the latter.

Ballots went out to most Coloradans by mail at the beginning of last week, and they must be received by county clerks by 7 p.m. Nov. 7. That’s why officials are urging voters to get their ballots in the mail by Halloween at the latest.

As has been the case all week, Republicans are turning in their ballots at a higher rate than Democrats and unaffiliated voters, according to data released by the secretary of state, although their margin is slipping.

By Thursday morning, 94,069 Republicans had returned their ballots, compared with 77,367 Democrats, 62,053 unaffiliated voters and 2,878 members of minor parties. El Paso County voters had returned the most ballots, followed by Douglas and Jefferson counties, both featuring hotly contested school board races. Arapahoe County had the next-highest number of returns, followed by Denver, which also has high-profile school board races.

A year ago at the same point in the calendar — amid the waning days of the presidential race — 572,550, or more than twice as many ballots, had been received.

Turnout in odd-year elections — known as “coordinated elections” as opposed to the General Elections held in even years — always lags. This is also the first year 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. Voters in other counties might also be going without an election this November if none of the districts they live in have contested races.

In last year’s election, 66 percent of voters delivered their ballots to drop boxes, 27 percent put theirs in the mail, and 7 percent voted at their clerk’s office or at a vote center in their county.

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 www.govotecolorado.com.

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.