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August 03, 2010 12:56 AM UTC

The Most Important Number Until the Primary: Turnout

  • by: Colorado Pols

FRIDAY UPDATE: Here are the turnout numbers as of 2:45 p.m. today. It looks like a lot of voters are still holding onto their ballots:

*Party/ Ballots Returned Thus Far/ Total Active Voters/ Percent Returned

Democrats: 245,477/ 817,458/ 30%

Republicans: 269,646/ 855,667/ 32%


Previous updates and original post after the jump


WEDNESDAY UPDATE: The Secretary of State’s office has updated the ballot return numbers. Here they are as of about 4:00 p.m. today:

*Party/ Ballots Returned Thus Far/ Total Active Voters/ Percent Returned

Democrats: 210,201/ 817,458/ 26%

Republicans: 222,938/ 855,667/ 26%

Democrats have already voted in significantly higher numbers than in 2008 (see after the jump for more), while Republicans are almost there. There’s still a lot of ballots to go for either Party to surpass the 335,431 votes cast the last time Colorado had a competitive top-ballot Primary (Pete Coors/Bob Schaffer in 2004).


In the last couple of weeks, polls for both the Democratic and Republican Senate races, as well as the Republican Governor’s race, have showed results that are all over the map. Those changing numbers lead us to believe that all three races are going to be relatively close.

With that in mind, the most important number for the next 8 days is going to be turnout. The general rule of thumb is that a higher turnout benefits the candidates with the best name ID — Sen. Michael Bennet on the Democratic side, and Jane Norton (Senate) and Scott McInnis (Governor) on the Republican ticket — because a larger number of voters usually means a larger number of uninformed voters, for whom name ID is really the most important issue.

As of this afternoon, here are the turnout results from the Secretary of State’s office. We’ll update these numbers on Wednesday afternoon and again on Friday afternoon (special thanks to the SOS Communications Staff for the timely updates):

*Party/ Ballots Returned Thus Far/ Total Active Voters/ Percent Returned

Democrats: 164,878/ 817,458/ 20%

Republicans: 171,236/ 855,667/ 20%

In 2006, overall primary turnout was 23%, while in 2008, overall primary turnout was 21.95%. It would appear as though we are well on our way to higher than normal turnout, which makes sense since we haven’t seen a contested statewide primary in Colorado (at the top of the ticket) since the 2004 Republican Senate race between Pete Coors and Bob Schaffer.

To give those numbers some perspective, here are the numbers for ballots cast for the top ticket race in 2008, 2006 and 2004. Pay particular attention to the 2004 Republican Senate race, which as we said above was the last competitive top-ticket Primary in Colorado:


2008: 194,227 votes cast (Mark Udall, Senate)

2006: 142,586 votes cast (Bill Ritter, Governor)

2004: 237,140 votes cast (Ken Salazar/Mike Miles, U.S. Senate)


2008: 239,212 votes case (Bob Schaffer, Senate)

2006: 193,804 votes cast (Bob Beauprez, Governor)

2004: 335,431 votes cast (Pete Coors/Bob Schaffer, U.S. Senate)


43 thoughts on “The Most Important Number Until the Primary: Turnout

    1. Mail-in voting has two peaks — in the first week ballots drop, and in the last few days before Election Day. If we had to throw out a number, we’d say probably 30% of the votes on both sides will come in this week.

      1. Vote by mail changes everything.

        Overall: higher turnout.

        But, your chances of affecting the election decline day-by-day.

        I am looking forward to some good analysis of this as I sure don’t intend to perform that analysis.

        I still say that John’s appearance for Jane on Saturday is meaningless.

      1. are sitting around reading the NYT on a Friday  – lord knows you they won’t find it in the unmentionable #1 Colorado paper. Waiting for an article there to help them make up their minds who to vote for??

        No offense, but you need to get out more often, man.  

        Maybe have a beer with that guy whose company already made its monthly sales quota….

      2. The data is in quesion wih an accounting firm.

        Mos people in Colorado don’t read the NY Times

        My phone banking has shown that most of the undecided are put off heavily by the Romjue acknowledgement that the anti pac mania has been a ruse.

      3. Outside of El Paso County, the vast majority of the remaining ballots are already in the mail and on their way to the county clerks. There will still be a lot of ballots coming in between now and Tuesday, but almost all of them will have been filled out by Thursday or Friday.

  1. “The general rule of thumb is that a higher turnout benefits the candidates with the best name ID — Sen. Michael Bennet on the Democratic side, and Jane Norton (Senate) and Scott McInnis (Governor) on the Republican ticket — because a larger number of voters usually means a larger number of uninformed voters, for whom name ID is really the most important issue.”

    Seems to me people wouldn’t bother to vote in a party primary unless they were relatively informed and equally motivated….It’s possible the ease of mail-in voting makes that marginally less so, however.

    Also not sure that Bennet has a higher name ID than Romanoff at this point in time. Maybe. Any data out there to support your suppostion?

    1. … regular primary voters. These people tend to be a little more party-aware than non-primary voters. AR has been party involved a lot longer than MB

      MB has been working really hard to increase his name ID, and the real question will be how many non-primary voters will vote this time and who have they latched onto. I don’t know and I would expect no one can really know until the votes are all counted.

      1. The majority of primary voters aren’t as tuned in as you think. I know. I’ve been phone banking targeted lists. These are people with a primary voting record and the general picture is not one of particularly high info voters who have given this much thought until very recently.  

        A sitting Senator who has been mentioned throughout the various media over time has higher name rec. Then the TV ads,the mother of all name rec and negatives, kick in.  Most primary voters have never paid much, if any, attention to the state legislature. Don’t confuse the universe of caucus goers with the universe of primary voters.

    1. I’m sure that insulting people is going to work really well to get your candidate elected.

      I have been involved in election campaigns for 22 years.  Never once have I found it necessary to insult people to get them to vote my way.  As a matter of fact, I don’t think that insulting people works for anything other than driving off voters.

      Whatever Romanoff is paying you, you should probably try to get Bennet to pay you 2x more instead.  That’s how effective you are at driving votes the other way.

      I have now gotten through three paragraphs without a personal insult. That’s over the limit for me, so let me tell you that you are an asshole.

      Want my vote?  Don’t insult me.

      1. Come on, now, it’s pretty much a given that everyone commenting on this site is considered an “informed voter” and definitely not stupid.  I’m just saying it’s funny that Bennet is depending on uninformed voters 🙂  On one hand it could be that informed voters are more likely party activists and therefore more likely to be loyal to Andrew.  On the other hand it could be that, in the AGGREGATE, the more the average voter knows about more candidates, the more likely they are to vote Andrew.  It’s probably the former.

        So loosen up.  And I’m not trying to get your vote.  At this late stage of the game.  On this site.  And I’m certainly not paid.  (Wish I were!)

  2. Despite Republicans having several statewide primaries to the Democrats’ one, they don’t have a huge advantage on returns, and it’s narrowing–as it usually does…Republicans tend to a larger early return surge before the return rates even out.

    Hopefully that pokes a few hole in the media narrative about the all-powerful tea party causing voter excitement on the right to be sky high while it’s dead on the left.

    A campaigner type on Maddow tonight spoke to what I think is closer to reality–the teabaggers are revved up, and nobody else is. The far right of the far right is excited, but the rest of the far right, right, center-right, and the rest of us are similarly low energy, something that is quite common in non-presidential years.

  3. Whazzup with that? I would expect some juicy Rasmussen polls showing the Tanc leading the Hick, Maes way ahead of McInnis, Obama the lowest-rated president in history: you know, the usual totally reliable Rasmussen poll results.

  4. With this being an all mail in ballot primary, how has that affected the election?

    Looking at the data, voters turn in ballots at the beginning and near the end of the mail in cycle. How does this affect 1) the candidates/campaigns, 2) the reporting, 3)the GOTV?

    Since there have been moves in the last years to move Colorado to an all mail in voting state, I’m curious how this primary and this election will influence those conversations in the future.


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