In Colorado, we’re pretty good at voting. As of today, 1,100,363 ballots have already been returned, adding up to a whopping one third of the general election’s total expected voter turnout, according to Louisville-based political research firm Magellan Strategies. This time four years ago—just two weeks from Election Day—only 419,135 ballots had been returned.
“Clearly there’s been a significant number of voters turning in their ballots earlier than normal,” says Ryan Winger, a data analyst at Magellan Strategies. While Winger says it’s too early to draw conclusions based on the current voter turnout, Democrats and unaffiliated voters are, in fact, turning in their ballots quicker than Republicans in Colorado.
According to data pulled from Magellan’s October 21 report, 445,794 Democrats and 378,664 unaffiliated voters have turned in their ballots already. Republicans, however, have only returned 264,920 so far.
“Clearly, what’s happening is Democrats and unaffiliated voters who, in Colorado tend to lean Democratic, are turning their ballots in earlier and they don’t have any issues with mail-in ballot elections,” Winger says. Colorado, which has been voting by mail since 2013, is one of just five states that sends a ballot by mail to every registered voter in the state.
(Read More: It’s Simple to Vote by Mail in Colorado)
“It’s not like other states where you have a whole lot of people who aren’t used to voting by mail who are now voting by mail just because of COVID-19 and everything going on,” he says. “I just think for Republicans, they may be just holding onto their ballots longer or maybe they’re going to drop them in a ballot drop box rather than stick them in the mail, but it’s too early to tell.”
The Republicans who have voted in 2020 only add up to 25 percent of all active Republicans in the state, while more than 40 percent of all active Democrats have already voted, according to the report. “It’s still a presidential election and I still fully expect that [Republicans] are going to show up and vote,” Winger says. “They’re just lagging behind the Democrats and unaffiliated right now.”
In 2018, early voting turnout among the parties was nearly even for both Republicans and Democrats, and in 2016, Republicans turned in more ballots than Democrats in the first week of voting. It’s hard to know precisely why there’s a lag in Republican returning ballots, though it could correspond with President Donald Trump’s consistent derision of the mail-in voting system. But, as Winger suggests, it’s too early to tell.
Historically, Winger says, Colorado has always had one of the highest voter turnout rates (in 2016, about 72 percent of all registered voters cast ballots)—and if turnout continues this way, that percentage might be even higher come November 3. “I think people are motivated, whatever side they’re on. Typically, it’s not uncommon for presidential elections. It just seems like there’s something extra going on where pretty much everyone is excited to vote.”