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Politics and Government

GOP turnout in Colorado behind 2014; Democrat, unaffiliated ballot returns are surging

"This will be a dogfight until the very end," Republicans say as GOP early voting figures are below 2014 numbers in all but one of the largest counties in Colorado

Former U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colorado, rallies voters at La Rumba in Denver's Golden Triangle neighborhood on Sunday night, Nov. 4, 2018. Salazar, who also served as Colorado attorney general and former President Barack Obama's Interior secretary, hit the campaign trail this weekend as both Democrats and Republicans up and down the ballot worked tirelessly to get out the vote. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)
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Just days before the election, Democrats hold a very slight lead in the early vote in Colorado and unaffiliated voters are leaning blue.

The combination is giving Democrats confidence ahead of Tuesday’s count and leaving Republicans with heartburn.

“This will be a dogfight until the very end,” said Daniel Cole, spokesman for the Colorado Republican Party. “It could go either way. Republican turnout today and tomorrow will determine whether we win or lose.”

Democrats returned roughly 1,300 more ballots than Republicans, according to the latest figures released Monday afternoon, increasing their turnout from four years ago in all but one of the largest counties.

So far, compared to the this point in the 2014 midterm election, GOP voters in Colorado have turned in about 40,000 fewer ballots. Republicans are behind their rate in all but one of the largest counties.

“It’s stunning how many of them seem to be holding on to their ballots,” said Ryan Winger, a consultant at Magellan Strategies, a Republican firm that analyzed the latest early voting figures.

(Note: The figures in the graphic below are as of Monday morning.)

On a mobile device? Scroll right to see the whole chart above.

One of the most interesting trends is the huge turnout from unaffiliated voters, who remain well ahead of their pace from 2014. The 505,496 ballots returned by voters not affiliated with any party is roughly 100,00 higher than at this same point in 2014, according to the Magellan Strategies report.

As of Monday morning, 62 percent of the unaffiliated voters who cast ballots in the November election voted in the Democratic Party primary in June, compared to 38 percent who participated in the Republican primary. The breakdown indicates that these voters may help boost Democrats at the top of the ballot.

“It’s now fair to say Tuesday is shaping up to be a bad one for GOP in Colorado,” said Curtis Hubbard, a Democratic strategist who analyzed the numbers, in a tweet.

The surge in unaffiliated voters may reflect that “they are kind of activated by Donald Trump,” Winger said.

Outside national politics, he added, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis has spent big money to target unaffiliated voters, which gives him the advantage against Republican Walker Stapleton when it comes to this voting bloc.

“Jared Polis is spending a lot of money, and he’s been talking to unaffiliated voters basically since March,” Winger said. “They knew that was a vote-rich territory for them.”

The two candidates — and others down the ballot — spent the weekend working to get out the vote in hopes of rallying any stragglers who have yet to cast ballots.

Another half-million or so more ballots are expected before polls close at 7 p.m. Tuesday with turnout projected to reach north of 2 million.

Overall turnout among Colorado’s 3,883,317 registered voters, both active and inactive as of Nov. 1, is at 42 percent so far with 1,636,971 ballots cast as of Monday afternoon.

Voter turnout in 2014 among registered voters was about 57 percent by the end.

One brighter spot for Republicans is the 6th Congressional District, where Magellan Strategies reported Monday morning that GOP voters are slightly ahead of Democrats with 71,514 ballots returned compared to 71,360. About 66,000 unaffiliated voters had cast ballots in the district as of Monday morning.

The district is home to the fierce battle between fiver-term incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman and Democrat first-timer Jason Crow.

GOP voters at the same point in 2014 had returned nearly 80,000 ballots in the 6th District, though, and Democrats were at about 60,000 four years ago at this time. In 2014, unaffiliated voters had cast about 50,000 ballots at the same point in 2014.

VOTER GUIDE 2018: Resources, explainers, latest news and more

There are now more registered Democrats than Republicans in the territory. The same is true for unaffiliated voters, whose numbers in the 6th District have ballooned in recent years.

Cole, with the Colorado GOP, said “it’s all hands on deck” and that the party’s ground game is operating at 100 percent of capacity.

Democrats, meanwhile, have boasted knocking on more than 1 million doors to try to encourage voters to get their ballots turned in.

The Colorado secretary of state’s office expects to release updated figures Tuesday morning.

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