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Colorado's unaffiliated voters lag behind Democrats, Republicans in early voting ballot submissions

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Posted at 11:10 AM, Nov 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-02 15:02:11-04

DENVER – As the presidential candidates and their surrogates continue their last-minute campaign pushes in Colorado, early voting numbers show unaffiliated voters continue to lag behind their Democratic and Republican counterparts in ballot submissions.

Republicans continued to narrow the voting gap between them and Democrats Tuesday, however, submitting more than 4,000 more ballots than active Democrats, according to Wednesday’s numbers.

The Colorado Secretary of State’s Office updates the number of ballots returned via mail and votes made in-person each day, and breaks down the votes by which party each person who submitted a ballot is registered for.

Every ballot is categorized by each voter’s registration and does not say how a person voted. Colorado law allowed county clerks to start counting ballots on Oct. 24.

The county clerk's offices open the ballots, check their signatures to validate them, and scan the results. However, the results will not be tallied or released until after the polls close on Nov. 8.

Though Democrats still hold a voting lead of just more than 23,000 ballots over Republicans, they have outvoted unaffiliated voters – Colorado’s largest group of voters – by about 123,000. Republicans hold a 100,000-vote lead over unaffiliated voters so far.

There are 1,140,909 active unaffiliated voters in Colorado, but only 28 percent have voted so far. That pales in comparison to the 42.6 percent of active Democrats and 40.8 percent of active Republicans who have already submitted their ballots.

Wednesday’s count shows about 36.7 percent of statewide active voters have already voted. In the 2012 presidential election, Colorado’s voter turnout was 70.9 percent.

But comparing this year’s early-voting numbers to 2012’s is difficult, as Colorado has changed its voting system to utilize mail-in ballots. People are still allowed to drop their ballots off in person or vote at polling centers on Election Day, but the differences in early-voting methods between the two years make direct comparisons difficult.

Democrats recently overtook Republicans in the number of statewide active registered voters. In 2012, Republicans held an early-voting lead through much of the election before a late surge by Democrats, though the final gap between Democrats and Republicans in voting percentages was fairly reflective of the gap in registration.

Of the 1.2 million votes submitted so far, 36.9 percent were from registered Democrats; 35 percent were from Republicans and 26.7 percent were from unaffiliated voters.

Libertarians have the next-highest voter turnout at 0.9 percent so far.

When looking at the state's largest counties, trends show Democrats have generally outvoted Republicans and unaffiliated voters as well.

Donald Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, will be in Loveland Wednesday, and Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was at a conservative roundtable in Denver. Donald Trump Jr. will host a rally Thursday morning in Fort Collins.

Chelsea Clinton campaigned for her mother, Hillary, in Aurora Tuesday and in Boulder Wednesday morning. Former President Bill Clinton will campaign in Pueblo, Denver and Fort Collins Friday.

Two polls from Republican research group Remington Research taken over the past two weeks showed Clinton with a two- and single-point advantage over Trump in a four-way race.

Though Colorado’s polls have wavered over the past year, most have shown Clinton with a variable lead. A Real Clear Politics average of the major Colorado polls show Clinton with a five-point lead, and a CBS News/YouGov poll taken between Oct. 26 and 28 showed Clinton with a three-point lead on Trump. The same poll taken from Sept. 21 to 23 showed Clinton had a single-point lead.

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