Early mail-ballot returns favor Republicans in Colorado

Colorado voting
A ballot drop-off box in Denver, where early voting started in mid-October in Colorado’s all-mail election.
(Ivan Couronne / AFP/Getty Images)

A measure requiring that a ballot be mailed to every Colorado voter passed the Democratic-controlled Legislature on a strict party-line vote last year. At the time, GOP lawmakers said they saw it as unnecessary and burdensome for county clerks, who would have to print and mail ballots to voters in a state that already had relatively high turnout in elections. 

But now, Colorado Republicans appear to be benefiting from the law in an election in which the party is running strongly in the state’s U.S. Senate and gubernatorial contests as well as in a number of legislative races. 

As of Monday, about 1.4 million Coloradans had already voted, and Republicans outpaced Democrats, 41% to 32%, in terms of ballots turned in. Based on Monday’s numbers, unaffiliated voters represented about 26% of ballots cast. Elections officials here expect a little more than 2 million ballots to have been cast by the time voting ends at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

The question, unknowable until all the ballots are in, is whether the Republican edge so far reflects procrastination on the part of Democrats or will hold through the close of voting.


“What a delicious irony it would be if Republicans won this election with increased turnout as a result of mail ballots,” said Dick Wadhams, a Colorado GOP strategist.

Colorado, Washington and Oregon are the only states with all-mail elections. 

Wadhams noted that Colorado, where Republicans have not won a gubernatorial or Senate race in more than a decade, had been utilizing voluntary mail ballots for several years before the law passed, with more than half of the electorate voting early by mail. 

Meanwhile, Democrats in Colorado, where incumbent Sen. Mark Udall and Gov. John Hickenlooper are fighting for their political careers, hope that a ground game implemented and sustained since 2008’s presidential election will help pull them across the finish line. 


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