By Gayle S. Putrich | Colorado Watchdog
DENVER — Election Day is still more than a week away according to the calendar, but nearly 10 percent of Colorado voters have already cast their ballots, and the Republicans are leading.
Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s office reports 325,810 residents have already cast ballots. With about 3.6 million people registered in Colorado, that means more than 8.9 percent of the state’s electorate has voted with 13 days to go before polls even open. The state’s mail-in ballots went out Oct. 15, and in-person early voting began Monday.
Republicans are outstripping Democrats in early voting with 126,539 ballots cast compared to 120,965 from Democrats, according to Gessler’s office.
Michael Berry, a political science professor at the University of Colorado-Denver, said he expects up to 30 percent of Colorado’s voting population to cast ballots before Nov. 6.
“Colorado is really about third in the nation for early voting, either voting through the mail or in person,” he said. “We’re getting to the point where that’s kind of become the norm in terms of how people vote.”
Berry said seeing more votes from Republicans than Democrats so far in Colorado is not a surprise.
“Republicans are more enthusiastic about this year’s election according to polls, and so I would expect that their turnout will be higher in both early and Election Day voting,” Berry said.
Berry and University of Colorado-Denver professor political science professor Kenneth Bickers have developed an election prediction model based on the Electoral College and state-by-state economic data.
They predict a win for Mitt Romney in Colorado and nationwide. Their model predicts Romney will receive 53.3 percent of the Colorado vote and 330 electoral votes to President Obama’s 46.7 percent, or 208 electoral votes.
Even with early voting under way, the latest polls show Colorado still very much in play, continuing the candidate’s tug o’ war that has lasted all fall.
A Rasmussen poll released Monday had Romney pulling ahead in Colorado 50 percent to 46 percent for Obama, marking the first time Romney has hit the 50 percent mark in the Centennial State. The pollster’s previous count had the candidates in a dead heat, with Obama edging ahead slightly, 49 percent to 48 percent. In mid-September, Rasmussen had Romney with 47 percent and Obama with 45 percent.
But a poll released Thursday by Project New America showed Obama in the lead over Romney, 46 percent to 43 percent, buoyed largely by Latino and women voters. The sample of 500 likely Colorado voters mirrors overall party registration in the state, PNA said, as “33 percent of the sample are registered Republicans, 34 percent are registered Democrats, and 33 percent are unaffiliated with either party.”
Both presidential candidates have been in battleground Colorado this week, making last-ditch appeals to voters.
Romney ended a whirlwind Tuesday that began in Florida and included a stop in Las Vegas before ending in Colorado at Red Rocks Amphitheater west of Denver. An estimated 10,000 supporters packed the outdoor concert venue for a rally that also featured running mate Rep. Paul Ryan, musician Kid Rock and an endorsement from the Colorado Rockies’ Todd Helton.
Obama countered with his own rally Wednesday, gathering an estimated 16,000 supporters in Denver City Park. “I love Red Rocks more than just about anybody, but it could never hold all of you guys,” he told the crowd, according to the Durango Herald. The president also hinted he may be back in Colorado before Election Day, saying “this may not be the last time you will see me,” before Nov. 6.
Gayle S. Putrich can be reached at email@example.com