Some Takeaways From Early Voting Numbers

If you haven't voted yet, you're far from alone (but you should, and here's how!). Early-voting numbers are down in Colorado based on figures released by the Colorado Secretary of State's Office, particularly from 2014, the last midterm election. It's hard to say exactly why that's the case, but the ballot is too damn long and some municipalities are having issues processing ballots.

With thirteen statewide ballot questions, the longest Denver ballot on record, judges, more judges and a string of statewide and congressional picks, it takes...a while to fill out your picks. Fill out a page of bubbles, turn the page, more bubbles, wait what the hell are you asking me, let me look it up on Westword's super-useful Denver ballot guide page, second page, insert curse word here when you discover a back side to the second page, third page, more bubbles, dammit I'm late for bed/gym/happy hour/work, more bubbles, done.

In fact, your correspondent's girlfriend fell asleep with her half-filled ballot on her on Monday night. Good night, sweet voter.

But back to the point of this story. As of Thursday morning, 367,927 Coloradans had voted, including 131,230 Republicans, 129,008 Democrats and 103,472 unaffiliated voters, according to the Secretary of State's Office. Sounds like a lot, right? It's actually not. At this time in the 2014 election, which we'll use as our main point of comparison, approximately 435,000 Coloradans had voted.

We spoke with local political insiders from both sides of the aisle to get a sense for what these early ballot numbers might mean. The overall conclusion? There's not a ton to be extrapolated yet. That said, there are a couple of hints about where things might be headed.

This Isn't 2014

That was a GOP wave year, and the tide swept hard into Colorado. Republican Cory Gardner squeaked by Democrat Mark Udall to win a six-year term in the Senate. At this point in 2014, though, Republicans had built up a massive firewall of early votes, outpacing Democrats by a nearly twelve-point margin, according to statistics released by Magellan Strategies. Now that figure is nearly dead even, with registered Republicans out-voting Democrats by less than 1 percent so far.
This handy dandy chart shows the Republican 2014 advantage  compared to what we've seen so far in the Colorado early vote. Advantage? Democrats. Probably. Maybe. - CONSTELLATION POLITICS - BEN ENGEN
This handy dandy chart shows the Republican 2014 advantage compared to what we've seen so far in the Colorado early vote. Advantage? Democrats. Probably. Maybe.
Constellation Politics - Ben Engen

But unaffiliated voters accounted for more than 29 percent of the statewide vote as of Thursday morning, a roughly five-point increase from their performance at this point in the 2014 election.

Colorado's unaffiliated voters tend to lean Democratic, and polling has shown that this key bloc of voters — the largest in the state — overwhelmingly disapprove of President Trump's job performance and prefer Democratic control of Congress by a double-digit margin.

Overall, Democrats — and Jared Polis — are probably somewhat happy with the returns they've seen so far. In the words of one Republican analyst, current early vote trends could potentially signal a "pretty sorrowful night" for the GOP on November 6.

Tipton Looking Good in CO-3?

GOP insiders Westword spoke with for this story were particularly happy with early numbers from this district, where FiveThirtyEight gives Democratic challenger Diane Mitsch Bush a roughly 44 percent chance of defeating Republican incumbent Scott Tipton. But one Republican insider told us that Tipton "has it in the bag" based on early vote numbers, where, through Wednesday, Republican turnout is narrowly outpacing Democrats. Republicans hold a five-point advantage in voter registration in this district, meaning Democrats will probably have to punch above their weight to give Mitsch Bush a chance.

CO-6 Voting Woes

In the competitive and closely watched 6th Congressional race between Republican incumbent Mike Coffman and Democratic challenger Jason Crow, polling has generally been favorable to Crow. Democrats hold a two-point registration advantage here.

But in Adams County (including Coffman's home turf of Aurora, where he won by 14 points in 2016), there have been major issues with ballots, and roughly a quarter of residents haven't received theirs yet.

Because of the ballot issues, we have less of a hint as to what's going on here. Still, despite the district's two-point Democratic registration advantage, Republicans held a 990-vote lead on Democrats as of Thursday morning, or a less than 2 percent edge. That advantage was at nearly 10,000 votes at the same point in 2014, when Coffman went on to defeat Democrat Andrew Romanoff by 8.9 percent. There are some reasons to be optimistic in both the Crow and Coffman camps, but we'll probably get a clearer sense of what's happening here next week, when more of Adams County's early votes come in.