Early Voting in Colorado 2016 and 2018

I have often read that registered Democrats tend to vote later. Is this the case in Colorado with our mail in ballot? The evidence from 2016 seems to say that it is unaffiliated voters and registered Republicans who are late turning in their ballots.

Election day in 2016 was on November 8th, as late as it can be. So one week until election day fell on November 1st. The press release from the Colorado Secretary of State’s office on early voting put out on 2016 Nov. 2 had the following voting breakdown:

Nov. 2
ACN 2,660 0.22%
Democrat 443,517 36.94%
3,182 0.26%
Libertarian 10,606 0.88%
Republican 420,330 35.01%
Unaffiliated 320,210 26.67%
Unity 167 0.01%
Total 1,200,672

The totals announced on December 9th were:

 Dec. 5
ACN 7,654 0.26%
Democrat 943,921 32.72%
Green 9,399 0.32%
Libertarian 3,2819 1.14%
Republican 963,061 33.38%
Unaffiliated 927,346 32.14%
Unity 607 0.02%
Total 2,884,807

So this has Democrats returning 23,187 more ballots around a week out than Republicans and making up a plurality of 36.94% of the total electorate at that point. By the end of the election were ahead by 19,140 ballots and were 33.38% of the total electorate. The unaffiliated vote surged up to be around 1/3 of the total from only being around 1/4. Likewise the minor parties all increased their percentage of the electorate by the time all valid ballots were received.

So what does this suggest for 2018? Well the Democrats are not doing well relative to this time in the presidential election. They are probably doing well relative to their usual performance in midterm elections. SoS Press Release for Oct. 31, 2018.

ACN 1764 0.18%
APV 21 0.00%
Democrat 331,263 34.82%
Green 1,868 0.20%
Libertarian 7,206 0.76%
Republican 331,706 34.86%
Unaffiliated 277,458 29.16%
Unity 145 0.02%
Total 951,431

As usual, the total votes are down in a midterm election, so nothing unexpected there.

If the pattern is the same as last cycle then ballots from Republican affiliated voters will will pull ahead by about 2.5%, though the surge of unaffiliated voters should give many Democrats a win on election night. Unaffiliated voters are already ahead of where their ballot returns were in the last cycle and if that holds their percentage of the voting electorate may exceed that of the major parties for the first time. It also could be that Democrats were just unusually fast to turn in ballots in 2016 because they were totally clear on who they wanted to vote against.


About DENependent

Independent voter interested in the analysis of the "whys" of politics. Resident of Denver, Coloradan since 1980.

5 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Colorado PolsColorado Pols says:

    The 2016 election was the first time that Democrats were close to Republicans in early mail-in ballot returns, so comparing '16 to '18 won't give you an accurate read.  

    • DENependent says:

      Very possibly I am seeing a trend that is not there.

      But if I am right I think that Democratic Party efforts to turn out the base early and then go after reluctant voters might be working. They might have reversed the common wisdom about registered Republicans being the typical early voters. Which would be a very interesting thing.

      Right or wrong I shall do another diary on the subject after election day figuring out the turn out of the various affiliations.

      • JohnInDenverJohnInDenver says:

        Hope you will take advantage of the resource provided by Magellan Strategies:  Magellan Strategies Colorado Ballot Return Report

      • JohnInDenverJohnInDenver says:

        So far, it looks to me like the Republicans have self-inflicted wounds, making Democratic turn out look pretty good by comparison. Unaffiliated is up — which I'm considering to be a recognition of "voter responsibility" and the resulting vote surge. 

        Here's Magellan's breakdown, comparing 2014 votes on the equivalent day before the election with 2018's November 1 totals.

        R 2014     431,711   R 2018   378,811

        D 2014     336,908   D 2018  376,630

        U 2014     269,404   U 2018   332,498

        and the analysis: “Over 50,000 fewer Republicans have returned their ballot than at this same point in 2014. This low turnout holds in ten of the top twelve counties in Colorado, the only exceptions being in Northern Colorado in Larimer and Weld Counties.”

        • DENependent says:

          Great information! This really looks like Republicans being depressed about voting here in Colorado plus whatever level of party switching that has happened in the last four years and the population increase (which is huge). NPR reported there were about 100,000 more in Colorado than either of the major parties in 2016 as part of an article about the trend nationally. 

          Active registered voters:

          R 2014     935,675   R 2018     995,090
          D 2014     896,539   D 2018  1,003,424
          U 2014     989,473   U 2018  1,163,751

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