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Lower Turnout in Off-Year Races

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Floyd Ciruli

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Douglas County community members

Colorado’s November 2nd mail-back voting finally crossed a half a million (552,807) on Thursday (10-28-21). The modest turnout is typical of off-year elections. In 2019, when two statewide initiatives were voted on in a split decision – “no” to a TABOR override and a bare “yes” to sports gaming for water funding – only 1,550,000 voted versus a presidential turnout of more than 3 million in 2020.

But even this lower interest election is being pulled into the rather bitter national political debates. Colorado’s polarized school board races of the past few years have heated up this year with vaccine mandates, masks and critical race theory arguments. Douglas County is in the forefront, but reflecting races in other counties. Denver’s and Aurora’s expensive school board battles are mostly around traditional union versus non-union and left versus less left candidates.

Homeless camp in Denver

Also, several municipal elections are all-out fights over homelessness (Denver) and the new young socialist-type candidates running for office versus newly assertive moderate business and Republican groups running candidates (Aurora).

Denver’s turnout in 2019 was 162,000, a little more than 10 percent of the state total. As of Friday, 45,000 had voted, only 7 percent of the state total, but Denver tends to vote late. In its last off-year elections, it took its usual liberal position and voted in favor of both initiatives, the TABOR override and sports gaming.