Colorado's unaffiliated voters behind Dems, Republicans in ballot returns for Tuesday's primary

161K unaffiliated ballots returned of 690K total
Posted at 3:10 PM, Jun 25, 2018

DENVER – One day before Colorado’s June 26 primaries, the state’s unaffiliated voters—the largest voting bloc in the Centennial State—still lag behind their affiliated fellow voters in returning ballots for the first primary in which they can automatically vote.

As of Monday morning, 161,560 unaffiliated voters had returned their ballots, compared to 267,620 Democrats and 261,686 Republicans. When looking at the percentage of total ballots cast as of Monday morning, 38.7 percent came from registered Democrats; 37.8 percent came from registered Republicans and 23.4 percent came from unaffiliated voters.

More primary information here: Guide to the primaries | Guide to the gubernatorial candidates | Find your drop box or polling locationRecap of the Democratic debate | Recap of the Republican debate

As of June 1, there were 1.2 million active registered voters who were unaffiliated in Colorado out of 3.28 million total active registered voters. There were almost exactly 1 million active registered Republicans and about 15,000 more active registered Democrats.

This is the first year that unaffiliated voters can participate in the primaries, but they are only allowed to vote on either a Democratic or Republican ballot. Some unaffiliated voters chose which ballot on which they would vote before they were mailed, while the other unaffiliated voters were mailed both ballots but will only be allowed to send one back, lest they are both discarded. 

But as of Monday morning, the 161,560 voters represented just 13.4 percent of the active registered unaffiliated voters. The share for Democrats (26.3 percent) and Republicans (26.2 percent) who have already voted in comparison to the number of active registered voters in each party were about double the unaffiliated turnout so far. The Denver Post reported Monday that political veterans in Colorado haven't been surprised by the low turnout so far.

Numbers from the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office also break down the number of unaffiliated voters who chose Democratic or Republican ballots either before they were mailed or when they mailed them back or dropped them off.

Around 80,000 of the unaffiliated voters either picked or returned only a Democratic ballot as of Monday morning. About 54,000 returned Republican ballots, while about 28,000 ballots had not been opened yet to see which party was chosen.

Women have returned more than 50,000 more ballots than men have in Colorado as of Monday morning, and they were more likely to be Democrats or unaffiliated voters who chose Democratic ballots than men, who were more likely to be Republicans. Unaffiliated men have selected Democratic ballots slightly more often than Republican ballots.

Turnout among Colorado’s 3.28 million active registered voters was about 21 percent as of Monday, though that number includes about 55,000 active registered voters who are affiliated with a third party and who are unable to vote in the primaries. The full turnout among all active registered voters was 21.8 percent in the last midterm primary election in 2014, and 21.4 percent in the primaries for the 2016 general election, but unaffiliated voters were not allowed to participate.

After this story was first published, Secretary of State Wayne Williams tweeted that 809,707 ballots had been returned by the afternoon.