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El Paso County voter turnout trails recent off-year elections

November 7, 2017 Updated: November 8, 2017 at 8:19 am
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Julie Christopher drops off her primary election ballot at a 24 hour ballot drop box outside the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office Wednesday, June 18, 2014. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette

Voter turnout in El Paso County was lower this year than in other recent off-year elections.

The county issued nearly 400,000 ballots, but only about 36 percent of them were returned by Tuesday's deadline, according to the unofficial count by the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office. The office tracks voter turnout using issued ballots rather than total registered voters, which includes inactive voters, spokeswoman Mattie Albert said.

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The county has 446,358 registered voters, according to the EPCCR website.

Most voters, about 85 percent, made their selections by mail prior to Tuesday, the office said.

The latest party breakdown showed the strongest turnout by Republicans, the county's largest party, with 68,926 participating, followed by 30,942 Democrats and 38,643 unaffiliated voters, the office said. A complete party breakdown was not expected until Wednesday, Albert said.

Though voter turnout seems to have surpassed expectations for this year - Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said last week he expected only about 85,000 mail-in votes - it remains lower than in other recent coordinated election years.

In 2015, the county issued 349,688 ballots and received 145,760, for a turnout of about 42 percent. Close behind was 2013, in which the county issued 364,478 ballots and saw 41 percent returned, records show.

"In 2013, there were two statewide issues on the ballot. And in 2015, there was a statewide issue. That factor may have driven slightly higher participation rates in both coordinate elections," Albert said.

The last time voter turnout dipped below 40 percent in an off-year election was in 2007, when only 29 percent of 208,324 voters participated, records show.

The new ballot-marking machines purchased this year did make for "smooth-sailing" for in-person voters, though, and helped get residents results faster, Albert said. The county purchased the machines and supporting equipment for $888,000.

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Contact Kaitlin Durbin: 636-0362

Twitter: @njKaitlinDurbin

Facebook: Kaitlin Durbin

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