With just five days to go before the Nov. 3 General Election, El Paso County voters have returned more ballots than they did last presidential election in 2016.
As of Wednesday afternoon nearly 225,000 ballots had been returned to the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder’s office, spokeswoman Kristi Ridlen said in an email to The Gazette. That’s a 37% increase in the number of ballots returned ahead of the election, compared with about 163,000 returned during the same time frame in the 2016 General Election, El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Chuck Broerman said.
And more ballots are piling in. Data from the Colorado Secretary of State’s office showed that as of Wednesday night nearly 245,000 ballots had been returned in El Paso County.
Broerman’s office “planned and modeled” to receive up to 370,000 ballots by election day, and he’s “overjoyed” to see the high numbers of returned ballots this year, he said.
“That means more people are enjoying their franchise and being heard,” he said.
On Oct. 9, the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder’s office mailed more than 425,000 ballots to voters and has since mailed out tens of thousands more, Broerman said.
“We’re closer to having mailed out about 440,000 to 450,000 ballots now,” he said.
Broerman has said he expects an 80% voter turnout among the county’s 435,000 registered voters, up from the typical 70%. He attributed that percentage to the candidates and ballot issues on this year’s ballot.
“Considering the length of the ballot and the number of items that people have to make decisions on … it appears right out of the gate that people were eager to vote.”
Voters will cast their ballots in the presidential race between President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden, as well as a U.S. Senate race that could be crucial in deciding who controls the Senate. Additionally, voters will decide nearly a dozen state ballot measures on issues ranging from taxes to abortion.
Broerman encouraged voters to return their ballots as soon as possible at one of the county’s 37 drop boxes or at a voter service and polling center to avoid lines on Election Day and to ensure their votes are counted.
Broerman said there was also a spike in the number of people who want to vote in person, a strategy he said can carry risk because of last-minute changes in people’s routines and schedules.
“We’re all very busy and our schedules may change at work. We have families and responsibilities, and that can catch you unprepared and possibly put you in a position where your voice won’t be heard,” he said.
Broerman expects lines to be long on Election Day and Monday, despite the steps the county has taken this year to process the higher volume of ballots. Those steps include adding more voter service centers and drop boxes.
On Friday an additional 14 voter service centers will open across El Paso County, bringing the total to 22. By Election Day, a total of 35 voter service centers will be open, up from 25 in 2016.
The county has hired 766 election judges, Broerman said.
He encouraged voters wanting to vote in person to do so on Saturday at any open voter service and polling center in the county, when lines are expected to be shorter.
The spike in coronavirus cases across the country could also put in-person voters at risk, Broerman warned.
“Even though we have everyone standing six feet apart, wearing masks, and election staff screened daily, people congregating indoors at a voter service and polling center still brings a risk. COVID-19 is a concern,” he said.
In Teller County, almost 10,600 ballots have been returned as of Wednesday night, according to data from the Secretary of State’s office.
Teller County voters can cast their ballots at the voter service center at the Woodland Park Library prior to and on Election Day.
On Election Day only, Teller County voters may also vote in person at voter service centers in Cripple Creek and at the Florissant Library. Additionally, voters can drop off their ballots into one of three drop boxes in Teller County.
Voters can still register at any voter center through 7 p.m. on Election Day.
The deadline to vote or return a ballot is 7 p.m. Nov. 3.