Many Routt County votes are already in as officials anticipate record turnout
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Like Kate Parke, who returned her ballot to the drop box by the courthouse in Steamboat Springs, over 11,000 Routt County voters have cast their ballots as of Thursday.
“It is awesome — everybody should be able to do this,” Parke said.
So far, the Routt County Clerk and Recorder’s Office said the number of ballots recieved, either by mail or a drop box, is roughly equivalent to 75% of all the votes cast in the county during the 2016 presidential election.
Mail-in and early voting has surged across the country as states adjust to holding an election during the pandemic. As of Tuesday, about 70 million ballots have already been cast nationwide, surpassing the number of votes cast in 2016.
“It has been really steady,” said Jenny Thomas, chief deputy county clerk and recorder. “Ballots are coming in at the same rate that they have been for the last week or two weeks.”
Thomas said the Clerk’s Office has received more ballots at this point in the election than it has in previous years, and it’s anticipated a record number of votes will be cast in the county.
While a lot of ballots have already been returned, the county sent out about 18,000 mail-in ballots to voters earlier this month, so there are still a lot of potential votes out there.
Thomas said she expects a lot of people to come and vote in person at the Steamboat Christian Center starting Monday next week.
“We are going to have a lot of machines set up for that — a lot of space for people to separate from each other and allow for social distancing,” Thomas said. “We are preparing for a lot of voters in person on Election Day.”
While in some states the increase in early voting could complicate how quickly results can be reported, Colorado election officials began counting ballots as they came in, beginning 22 days before the election.
“We have been scanning them in, but we are not going to publish,” Thomas explained. “We can’t publish anything until after 7 o’clock on Election Night.”
She said the first results will be posted on the county’s website a little after 7 p.m. when the polls close, with updates provided later in the night.
Colorado has already had over 2.1 million people vote, equal to almost 73% of the 2016 vote. Of this, nearly all have been mail-in votes, with just about 22,000 people voting early in-person, according to the U.S. Elections Project, which tracks early voting on a national level.
Statewide, the most ballots, about 764,000, have been returned by voters who do not identify with a party, according to data from the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office. That means about 45% of all unaffiliated registered voters have already cast a ballot.
Just behind them are votes cast by people who are registered with the Democratic Party with about 750,000 votes. Registered Republicans have returned about 570,00 ballots statewide.
Turnout also has been strong in a state that routinely ranks high in voter turnout. About half of all registered Colorado voters have already returned a ballot. Almost 61% of registered Democrats and 51% of registered Republicans have returned ballots statewide.
Similar trends can be seen in Routt County with a little over 4,000 ballots returned by registered Democrats and about 2,500 returned by registered Republicans. But it is the nearly 4,800 votes from unaffiliated voters that could decide the many contested races on the ballot.
This trend of Democrats outpacing Republicans in mail-in votes can be seen in every state that records party affiliation on voter registration, according to Michael McDonald, a professor at the University of Florida who gathers data for the elections project.
“They are not just an artifact of heavily Democratic large states like California conducting all-mail ballot elections,” McDonald wrote for the elections project Sunday. “The election is not over yet, not by a long shot.”
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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