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Bernie Sanders sits atop Colorado Democratic delegate count but Joe Biden is closing the gap

A Colorado Sun analysis of preliminary vote totals shows how Elizabeth Warren’s departure reshuffles the state’s delegates

A supporter holds a “Bernie for President 2020” sign at a rally hosted at the Colorado Convention Center on Feb. 16, 2020. (Moe Clark, The Colorado Sun)
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Bernie Sanders added to his total of Democratic delegates in Colorado after another former rival departed the race, but Joe Biden is closing the gap.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s decision Thursday to drop out of the Democratic presidential primary means the five statewide delegates she won are shuffled to the remaining two viable candidates. Based on new projections from The Colorado Sun’s delegate counter, Sanders will claim 29 delegates and Biden will get 21.  The numbers are based on election results reported through 9 a.m. Thursday.

The delegate allocations — which are based on Democratic Party rules — are leaning in Biden’s favor at the moment. The former vice president won 24% of the statewide vote but is poised to claim 31% of the state’s 67 delegates, The Sun found. Sanders, the Vermont U.S. senator, won the state’s popular vote Tuesday at 26% and now he is forecast to claim 43% of the delegates.

The exit of Warren and Michael Bloomberg, the former New York mayor, means they don’t qualify for statewide delegates, but they retain those won at the congressional district level. Right now, Warren has 7 delegates and Bloomberg has 10.

The totals are still preliminary because more than 26,000 ballots remained uncounted at the end of the day Wednesday. Three of the counties still tabulating results are located in the 6th Congressional District, where Warren appears just below the viability threshold but may still claim an additional delegate. This explains the difference in the projections from The Sun and the Colorado Democratic Party. The votes for Biden and Bloomberg also are so close it may change the apportionment of delegates.

Sanders and Biden continue to pick up delegates as their rivals exit. The first projection the night of the Super Tuesday primary, based on early election returns, showed Sanders with 25, Biden with 17, Bloomberg with 15 and Warren with 13.

When Bloomberg ended his bid on Wednesday, he lost his five statewide delegates. At that point, the count stood at Sanders with 28, Biden with 16, Warren with 13 and Bloomberg with 10.

Moving forward, the delegates assigned to Warren and Bloomberg continue to hold firm in their support, or they can back another candidate, according to Democratic Party rules. If no candidate enters the Democratic National Convention with the majority — or 1,991 of the 3,979 delegates — needed to claim the nomination, it would make the spread of Colorado’s delegates that much more important.

MORE: How Colorado will award Democratic delegates from the Super Tuesday primary, explained

In Colorado, Democrats assign 23 at-large delegates to candidates based on the statewide popular vote, but the bulk — 44 more — are apportioned in the state’s seven congressional districts. 

To qualify for delegates at either level, a candidate must reach 15% support. And the congressional districts with greater concentrations of Democratic votes, such as those based in Denver and Boulder, will award the most delegates.

The Sun is projecting how many delegates each viable candidate will win based on preliminary results from state election officials. The numbers are updated more frequently than other national projections, and the figures may differ from those released by the Colorado Democratic Party because of the timing of when the party’s numbers were updated.

Some counties plan to submit updated results by the end of the day Thursday, according to the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office, which oversees elections. But most counties won’t report their final totals until March 12 — at which point The Sun will release its final delegate count. 

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