Voter registration and early voting in Colorado [updated]

| October 31, 2008

[UPDATED 10/31/08 – 1452 MDT]

The Colorado Secretary of State’s office has just released updated figures (Excel spreadsheet; PDF file) as of 4 am this morning for early voting and mail-in ballots. Here are the totals:

  • Democrats: 488,575 (54.1% of “active registered voters”; 63.3% of MIBs returned)
  • Republicans: 465,869 (52.2% of “active registered voters”; 65.0% of MIBs returned)
  • Unaffiliated: 336,511 (41.3% of “active registered voters”; 41.3% of MIBs returned)

So as of last night, the Democrats had a 23,000 edge in early voting over the Republicans — but that difference equals just 6.7% of the total unaffiliated vote to date. So, again, it comes down to how the unaffiliated are breaking for Obama and McCain.

Note that the Republicans are still slightly ahead of the Democrats in returning mail-in ballots (MIBs), while both are quite a ways ahead of unaffiliateds returning MIBs. So it not only comes down to how the unaffiliateds vote, it also comes down to which ones do a better job of filling out and returning their their mail-in ballots: McCain supporters or Obama supporters.



Rich Lowry over at the National Review Online reports that the McCain camp has given up on Colorado:

Even though Obama hasn’t had the big double digit leads in CO he has had in other states, the McCain camp considers it gone (citing early voting and the Dem registration effort in the state).

This makes no sense for two reasons: first, the “unaffiliated” voter registration is so large (roughly 90% of the Dem and Rep registrations) as to dominate the actual outcome; second; the “early voting edge” of the Democrats is actually pretty small.

According to the Colorado Sec’y of State office, here are the relevant figures for this election cycle:

# of “active registered voters”: Dems = 895,339; Reps = 885,348; Unaffiliated = 805,610.

In other words, there are almost as many unaffiliated voters as there are either registered Democrats or Republicans.

As for the early vote “edge”, here are the latest results from the CO SofS office:

early in-person voting as of 10/27: Dems = 63,580; Reps = 51,903; Unaffiliated = 45,164.

mail-in ballots as of 10/27: Dems = 251,409; Reps = 247,709; Unaffiliated = 151,905.

total early votes as of 10/27: Dems = 314,939; Reps = 299612; Unaffiliated = 197069.

The Democrats have an edge of just 15,327 votes so far in early voting, while nearly 200,000 unaffiliated voters have already voted as well. Furthermore, Republicans are actually doing slightly better (by 1.3%) at returning mail-in ballots than the Democrats (44% vs. 42.7%), while both groups are doing much better than the unaffiliated voters (only 31.1% returned as of 10/27).

So the real issue in Colorado is not Democrats vs. Republicans; it’s how the unaffiliated voters (roughly 31% of all active registered voters) break. Now, it may be that the McCain camp has some polling data indicating how those voters are breaking, and that may be the reason for their withdrawal, but the talk about registration and early voting of Democrats is just silly.

A final note. Most of the figures I’ve cited above are in reference to what the Colorado Secretary of State’s office deems “active, registered voters”. Among those listed as “inactive” on the spreadsheet they provide, Republicans actually have a 20,000-voter lead over Democrats (178,522 to 158,105), which means that overall, there are more registered Republicans than registered Democrats in Colorado.

It strikes me that the real problem the Republicans have faced in Colorado is a lack of funds to sway independents and to get out the vote. And they may well lose Colorado because of that.  ..bruce w..

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Category: 2008 Election, Main, US Politics

About the Author ()

Webster is Principal and Founder at Bruce F. Webster & Associates, as well as an Adjunct Professor of Computer Science at Brigham Young University. He works with organizations to help them with troubled or failed information technology (IT) projects. He has also worked in several dozen legal cases as a consultant and as a testifying expert, both in the United States and Japan. He can be reached at, or you can follow him on Twitter as @bfwebster.

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