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Election 2020

Colorado voters take on coronavirus, power outages to contribute to record turnout

But early voting meant that for many counties, the day was relatively calm

People vote by dropping off their ballots in the final day before Election Day in Denver, CO, November 2, 2020. (Kevin Mohatt, Special to The Colorado Sun)
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Colorado hit record voter turnout numbers Tuesday, but this November’s election has not gone off without a hitch. 

Of course there’s the difficulty of running an election during a pandemic. The seven-day average of coronavirus cases statewide as of Monday — 2,141 cases — was the highest it’s been recorded since the start of the pandemic. 

Some prospective voters reported that coronavirus quarantine prevented them from going to the polls. Arin Russell recently moved to Debeque from Grand Junction and was intending to update her voter registration at a voting center, since state law offers same-day voter registration. But after being out of town until Monday night, she got a call Tuesday morning that she and her father may have been exposed to coronavirus.

“It’s just one of those situations that I never expected,” Russell said. 

It’s not clear exactly how many voters are in Russell’s shoes, but there is a solution: A replacement registration form and emergency replacement ballot. Russell said she was “relieved and excited” to get the opportunity to vote, especially after thinking for a while that she would just forgo this election. As of Tuesday evening, she was still working to communicate with Mesa County, who she said was “swamped” trying to help people vote.

Multiple county clerks told The Colorado Sun they have delivered more replacement ballots to voters over the past couple of weeks than they do in a normal year, likely due to the pandemic.

There have been non-pandemic challenges as well. Back on the Front Range, Xcel Energy customers in parts of Arapahoe and Denver counties — including the polling place at MLK Jr. Library in Aurora — lost power for about an hour. 

Peg Perl, elections director for Arapahoe County, said that thanks to backup power supplies, there was “not an immediate jolt of things going out.” A handful of voters wrapped up their ballots, while a couple who were waiting to vote were redirected to another voting center five minutes away.

Some polling places have seen long lines, albeit temporarily. Broomfield elections manager Todd Davidson said that the city and county’s four polling places saw some lines when polls opened at 7 a.m., but only one reported lines during the day. Davidson credits early voters for making it a “mild” day.

“It’s been without really much drama today,” Davidson said.

This story was produced with the help of Electionland, a multi-newsroom project led by ProPublica. The Colorado Sun is a partner newsroom on the project.