Brutal election season elicits unenthused local, state electorate

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AURORA | After a brutal campaign slog and months of seemingly non-stop attack ads, many local voters reached the same conclusion as the majority of their counterparts around the country: They weren’t especially enthused with Election 2016.

The state’s booming population meant more people headed to the polls last week than did in 2012, but election officials say a smaller percentage of eligible voters cast a ballot this year than in previous presidential races.

Jim Dunst verifies the number of signatures for each voting location on Tuesday Nov. 15, 2016 at Arapahoe County Election Facility. Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel“Turnout was down fairly significantly from where we were in 2008 and 2012,” said Arapahoe County Clerk and Recorder Matt Crane.

In Arapahoe County, which covers most of Aurora, more than 310,000 people cast a ballot last week. That easily tops 2012, when about 288,000 people voted.

But Crane said that number doesn’t really tell the story.

In terms of turnout percentage, only 74.14 percent of the county’s eligible voters made it to the polls. That’s down a shade from 2012, when nearly three-fourths — 74.9 percent — voted.

And Crane said the turnout figures were even worse among the county’s “active voters” — those who have voted in a recent election and who the county is certain received a ballot at the correct address.

Only about 85 percent of those voters cast a ballot last week, Crane said, while about 93 percent of them voted in the previous two presidential races.

Nationally, just 55 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots, according to CNN, the lowest percentage in 20 years and well below the high-water mark in 2008, when 63 percent of eligible voters made it to the polls.

Crane said that local election officials could tell before Election Day that a smaller chunk of eligible voters would cast ballots this year.

“We knew during the early voting period that the turnout was lagging behind,” he said.

Crane said election officials are still counting some ballots, including those where there was some question about the voter’s signature. Still, he said the final data released at the end of the week will likely vary by only a few thousands votes, not enough to dramatically change the turnout rates.

Statewide, election officials say final numbers on turnout won’t be available until late this month, but they don’t expect to see a spike in turnout rate.

Judd Choate director of the Division of Elections at the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office, said that while the number of voters this year will surpass the 2012 numbers, the turnout rate will likely be flat.

In 2012, Colorado saw almost 2.6 million votes and turnout percentage was 71 percent, according to the secretary of state. Based on the latest state figures available, about 2.8 million votes were cast in 2016 and the percentage is hovering around 73 percent.

Choate said, when the final numbers are in, they will likely show about 69 to 70 percent of eligible Colorado voters made it to the polls this year.

In Adams County, which includes all Aurora voters who live north of East Colfax Avenue, the turnout rate is up slightly compared to 2012, but among active voters is lower than Arapahoe County.

According to the latest figures available, about 196,000 people in Adams County cast a ballot this fall, compared to 177,000 in 2012. The turnout rate in 2012 was 68 percent and it ticked up to 72 percent this year.

Jim Siedlecki, spokesman for the county, said 79.9 percent of active voters cast their ballot this year, but county officials didn’t immediately have that figure for the 2012 election.

In Arapahoe County, Crane said, while the percentage of active voters slipped this year, he doesn’t think there is much election officials in Colorado can do to make voting any easier.

Every eligible voter receives a ballot in the mail, Crane said, and Arapahoe County operates 25 voting centers when the state only mandates they have 23.

“We’ve tried to make access to the ballot as easy as possible,” he said.