More Routt County voters cast a ballot in this midterm election than ever before

Only the 2020 presidential election has seen more ballots cast locally

Election judges process ballots Tuesday afternoon inside the historic Routt County Courthouse.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Routt County voters cast more than 14,000 ballots before polls closed on Tuesday, Nov. 8, the highest number of votes ever for a midterm election locally, according to data released by the Colorado Secretary of State.

The figure was still behind the record 17,000 votes received in the contentious 2020 presidential election, but it beat out the previous high from 2018 by about 600 votes.

“2018 was high, it was 13,000 and some change and we have over 14,000 (this year),” said Routt County Clerk and Recorder Jenny Thomas. “I think it was a pretty good election day, especially with the heavy return on ballots. And we had a little fun on the way.”

While votes cast went up, the percentage turnout in Routt County did decline slightly from 2018 from 77% to 73%. Out of the 19,417 active voters in the county, 14,123 of them cast a ballot.

As of 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 9, Routt County had reported the results for 13,905, leaving a little more than 200 votes out there. Thomas said some ballots lacked any signature and others had signature discrepancies, both of which voters have eight days to clear up.

There are about 15 other cure ballots and then a batch the clerk’s office has deliberately held back to protect the identity of voters who cure their ballot. Voters have until Nov. 16 at midnight to cure their ballot, after which the clerks’ office will release the results for remaining ballots.

That amount of ballots isn’t expected to change the result of any local election.

“Were processing this stuff right now as people are sending in their paperwork to cure those ballots,” Thomas said.

Routt County clerk Jenny Thomas helps election judge Valerie Beers with a machine that opens ballots so that they can be verified, Tuesday Nov. 8, 2022 at the historic Routt County Courthouse in downtown Steamboat Springs.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

An interesting quirk of Election Day counting was that nine voters submitted their primary ballot rather than a general election ballot. Thomas said these voters don’t have a way to submit the correct ballot at this point.

“I am super proud of the team,” Thomas said, who conducted her first election as clerk. “It takes a lot of effort from everyone involved and I am so grateful for our election judges, staff and everyone involved.”

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Across the state, Coloradans returned more than 2.4 million ballots for a turnout rate of about 64% among the states 3.8 million active voters. There were still about half a million ballots to count on Wednesday afternoon, which Colorado Secretary of State spokesperson Jack Todd said was normal.

“Counties have not typically finished tabulating ballots by this time,” Todd said in a 3 p.m. email. “Things are proceeding as usual on the county level.”

Of ballots returned statewide, about 40% of them have come from unaffiliated voters — the largest voting block. Another 30% came from registered Democrats and 28% from registered Republicans.

Routt County saw an even higher share of voters who are not registered with a party. About 46% of ballots came from unaffiliated voters, 31% from Democrats and 22% from Republicans.

Catherine Carson, chair of the Routt County Democrats, said she wasn’t surprised by high turnout across the county, as it “is always a very energized and studied electorate.”

“It was exciting to have everyone’s voice and vote heard,” Carson said. “I’m just so inspired by team Dems’ candidates and all of our volunteers. Everyone stayed positive. They focused on the issues and the opportunities for our community.”

Democrats won every statewide race in Colorado on Tuesday, with the closest margin being an at-large seat on the State Board of Education. Democrat Kathy Plomer was winning that race over Republican Dan Maloit by a 52% to 45% margin on Wednesday afternoon.

“(Democrats) have worked very hard for our community,” Carson said. “There is still a lot of work to do, but the Dems are focused on moving our community, our country and our state forward.”

Pete Wood, chair of the Routt County Republicans, said he thought local turnout of voters registered with the party was strong, but that their candidates were not able to sway enough unaffiliated voters to support them.

“We didn’t win over the unaffiliated (voters) the way we needed to and that’s where we needed to make ground,” Wood said. “That seems to be the case across the state and across the country. That red wave that was supposed to happen really depended on turning out unaffiliated, independent voters for Republicans.”

While it didn’t materialize at the ballot box, Wood said he felt like local Republicans did a good job communicating with voters, as they have grown party membership.

“I think we’re resonating with more people, but I think what we can learn is how we can better message and attract the independents and unaffiliated voters,” Wood said. “I think we have plenty of room for improvement there.”

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