Update 11/3/20: As of 5 p.m., 3,145,626 ballots have been returned in Colorado, exceeding the original predicted voter turnout. We will keep updating this story as more data becomes available.
Even before results are announced, there is one thing we know for sure about Colorado’s 2020 election: Voter turnout is going break records.
Ryan Winger, a data analyst at Magellan Strategies, says that he expects voter turnout to be about 300,000 more than originally predicted. Two weeks ago, the Louisville-based political research firm estimated the turnout to be close to three million, but as of this morning, 2,836,124 ballots have already been returned in Colorado—about 80 percent of all active voters. The firm expects another 600,000 Colorado voters to cast their ballots today.
“Typically it’s anywhere from 550,000 to 650,000 people actually voting on Election Day. I think it’ll be closer to 3.3 million in total turnout,” says Winger, adding that he thinks most Coloradans who are voting today are just handing in their mail ballots via drop box rather than waiting in line and filling out a ballot at a polling place.
In 2016, the final voter turnout for the Centennial State was 2,848,844—only 12,720 more than this morning’s data. “This is how it always happens,” Winger says. “A large chunk of ballots come in on the last two days.” About 132,000 Coloradans voted in-person on Election Day in 2016. “The rest who voted on Election Day just dropped off their mail ballots, which is much simpler and an easier process, obviously,” he says.
But Winger says that some polling locations will see an influx of in-person voters and may not be fully prepared. “I know that polling places in some counties are a little bit worried about being overwhelmed just because we are an all-mail ballot state,” he says. While the polling places are staffed, Winger says that they may not be equipped to handle a massive in-person turnout because they figured that everyone is just going to drop off their mail ballots. “But the only way to know is to see how today goes,” he says.
Right now, unaffiliated voters are the largest voting subgroup with 1,065,739 ballots returned (70.6 percent of all active unaffiliated voters), according to today’s ballot report. While Democrats have the lead over Republicans—919,021 ballots returned to 812,716—Winger expects that gap to close as Republicans show up today to vote.
“Turnout has been so high already that I don’t think it’s something that’s going to create massive headaches like you see in other states where they’re opening up NBA arenas—just trying to make it so that people don’t have to stand in line for five, six, or seven hours,” Winger says. “We don’t have to worry about that here in Colorado.”