11 p.m. update

- Jared Polis earns historic win to become Colorado governor. Read more here.

- Voters turn thumbs down on ballot measures. Read more here.

- Blue wave appears to give Polis Democratic-controlled state Senate. Read more here.

- Vote count close for Palmer Lake recreational marijuana. Read more here.

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9:08 p.m. update

The Associated Press has called several more races in Colorado:

• Republican Scott Tipton won re-election to the U.S. House in Colorado's 3rd congressional district.

• Democrat Joe Neguse won election to the U.S. House in Colorado's 2nd congressional district.

• Democrat Diana DeGette won re-election to the U.S. House in Colorado's 1st congressional district.

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9:02 p.m. update

CNN has projected that Democrats will take control of the U.S. House of Representatives while Republicans keep control of the U.S. Senate. Read more here.

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9 p.m. update

Colorado voters had a word for a host of major measures on their general election ballot: No.

Going down in defeat in early returns were proposals to restrict oil and gas development, tax the rich to fund schools, pay back property owners for the cost of regulation and lower the minimum age for state lawmakers, as were two competing plans to finance transportation improvements.

But voters said “yes” to a pair of reforms intended to end gerrymandering of electoral districts and to removing an antiquated constitutional measure allowing slavery to be used as punishment.

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8:55 p.m. update

Call it a blue avalanche.

If trends hold, Democrats in Colorado look likely to win all major statewide offices and both houses of the Legislature, a feat they haven’t accomplished in 80 years.

In addition to winning the governor’s office, Democrats were leading in the races for secretary of state, attorney general and treasurer, and they were poised to take control of the state Senate and hold onto their majority in the state House.

Colorado Democrats haven’t had such a sweep since 1938.

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8:13 p.m. update

"I have spoken to Congressman Polis and congratulated him on his victory," Walker Stapleton tweeted at 8:11 p.m. "It is time for everyone to come together and work for the good of Colorado. Thank you to everyone for your support throughout this campaign."

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8:06 p.m. update

"Colorado Democrats, this is going to be one heck of a night," Gov. John Hickenlooper said from the stage at the Colorado Democratic Party’s election night celebration at the Westin in downtown Denver.

With about half of statewide votes reported, Democrats appeared poised to sweep statewide offices for governor, attorney general, state treasurer, secretary of state and CU regent at-large. In addition, Democrat Jason Crow was on track to unseat five-term U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, an Aurora Republican in one of the most hotly contested seats in the country, and the Democrats also looked as if they won control of the state Senate.

Grinning ear to ear and struggling to be heard over the boisterous crowd, Hickenlooper said: "We are a party that cherishes civil society, built on top of common decency. We believe in facts — facts matter, and that makes us the true patriots."

The crowd ate it up.

"Republicans need to dislodge themselves from the president," Hickenlooper said.

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8:05 p.m. update

Political analyst Floyd Ciruli, CNN and NBC News have called Colorado'a 6th Congressional District for Democrat Jason Crow, ousting the incumbent, Republican Mike Coffman.

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7:50 p.m. update

Political analyst Floyd Ciruli called the Colorado governor's race for Jared Polis, the first openly gay and Jewish governor elected in U.S. history.

The Colorado Democratic Party released a statement: "Congratulations to Jared Polis on being elected as our state's next governor. Jared ran an inspiring campaign focused on bold solutions to the problems that Coloradans face, and Colorado voters rewarded Jared's positive vision with a decisive mandate to accomplish an agenda that will make us a national leader in bringing down health care costs, giving our kids the education they deserve, protecting our unique public lands, and expanding economic opportunity for all.

"Thanks to steady Democratic leadership under our outgoing Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper, our state's economy is the envy of the nation, and under Jared Polis, we can improve on that success and keep building a positive economic future that works for every Coloradan.”

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7:46 p.m. update

Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet took the stage at the state Democrats’ election night party in Denver to a swell of cheers as early returns showed Democrats jumping to double-digit leads in statewide races and in battleground state Senate seats.

"I’m not surprised because I know what happened here in 2016 in the state of Colorado, where we rejected the politics of division, we rejected the politics of fear, and we rejected a politics that’s completely inconsistent with our finest traditions as Americans," Bennet said from the same stage where he declared re-election victory two years ago. That happened the same night President Donald Trump won a victory that stunned pundits and politicians alike.

Those traditions, Bennet said, include embracing the U.S. Constitution, the rule of law, freedom of speech, freedom of the press “and embracing the freedom to marry the person that you love.”

"We understand that this country has been built by the sweat of immigrants, among other people," Bennet said, his voice nearly drowned out by cheers from a crowd estimated at 1,000 people.

"In 2018, Colorado stands to lead again," he said. "By the time tonight is over, Colorado will be a beacon to the rest of the country that’s seeking to restore our finest traditions."

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7:45 p.m. update

State Republican Party Chairman Jeff Hays of Colorado Springs said voter logic was missing in early returns Tuesday night.

"I hope they're voting on common sense this year," he said as the first waves of counted votes favored Democrats heavily.

With the majority of votes still to be counted, he said the race was still to be run, as a subdued crowd of Republicans milled about in the GOP party in Lone Tree.

One woman had asked him to get the TV in the ballroom switched from CBS to Fox News.

"I think it has been demonstrable that, for example, Proposition 112 on oil and gas setbacks would be an unmitigated disaster for Colorado. If that thing passes, I don't even know what state we live in.

"And we've got a gubernatorial opponent (Democrat Jared Polis) who has been a friend of those kinds of initiatives not too long ago — not our candidate. The Democratic Party actually endorsed 112. There have been clear choices, and I believe those are common-sense choices."

Polis, as a congressman from Boulder in 2014, initially supported a proposed ballot initiative that year for a 2,000-foot setback for oil and gas operations from homes, schools and businesses.

As a gubernatorial candidate this year, he has not openly supported Proposition 112.

Daniel Cole, spokesman for the state GOP, read results to the crowd that showed all the GOP candidates were trailing.

He said people who vote later tend to be more thoughtful.

"And we in this room know thoughtful people tend to vote Republican," he told the dejected crowd.

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7:40 p.m. update

NBC News and ABC News have called the Colorado governor race for Jared Polis.

The Associated Press said Republican Doug Lamborn has won re-election to U.S. House in Colorado's 5th Congressional District and Democrat Ed Perlmutter wins re-election to the U.S. House in Colorado's 7th Congressional District.

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7:25 p.m. update

Gov. John Hickenlooper is spending his last election day as governor hanging out with Democrats at the Westin Hotel in downtown Denver, according to Colorado Politics reporter Marianne Goodland.

He spoke to reporters shortly before the polls closed, sticking to his assertion that a decision on whether to seek the presidency in 2020 is still months away.

But he added that the midterms have given him an opportunity to meet with voters in a host of key states to see whether there is an appetite among Democrats for a moderate candidate. "I don't like to think of myself as a moderate, but that's what they all say," he said. He said he hopes voters would want someone who tries to get things done, finds compromises and solutions and bring people together rather than dividing them.

He's optimistic about the chances for Democrats to sweep the top of the ticket as well as taking back control of the state Senate. "It will be an exciting time and good for Colorado," he said. "They will bring some measure of change, expand the middle class, and everyone participates in the booming economy."

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7:23 p.m. update

With 873,000 ballots counted out of more than 2.2 million, Jared Polis has a lead over Walker Stapleton in the Colorado governor race, about 54 percent to 42 percent.

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7:20 p.m. update

For a gallery of Election Day photos from Gazette photographers, click here.

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7:15 p.m. update

Dylan Sparks said he attended the Republican election watch party at the Colorado Springs Country Club, 3333 Templeton Gap Rd., to support his fellow conservatives.

The place was packed with scores of fellow voters. Sparks said this is the most unified he's seen the party in his 21 years.

"It's a Reagan feeling," Sparks said.

Among the candidates he's supporting is Republican George Brauchler, who is vying to be Colorado's next attorney general over Democratic challenger Phil Weiser.

"He's a principled man with a phenomenal background," Sparks said.

He said he's confident the only incumbent in the state's top races, Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams, also will emerge victorious over Democrat Jena Griswold.

Much of that confidence comes from the bipartisan support that Sparks said he's seen for Williams.

"I'm 100 percent confident he'll pull it off tonight," he said.

Despite the outcome for Colorado's races in Tuesday's midterm elections, Sparks said he hopes the state and the country will come together.

"We ought to focus on unity in this country," he said.

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Photo by Conrad Swanson.

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7:12 p.m. update

Just as polls close, Colorado Democratic Party Chairwoman Morgan Carroll is greeted with cheers as she welcomes the growing crowd to the state Democrats' election night watch party at the Westin in downtown Denver. Turnout has already exceeded the entire vote in the last Colorado midterm election by more than 200,000 votes, she says. Pointing to the giant TV screens that flank an American flag at the front of the ballroom, she delivers some early results from eastern states — Democrats appear to be doing well — and adds a tidbit from preliminary returns in Texas: "It is a nail-biter; last we saw, Beto O’Rourke is up."

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Photo by Ernest Luning.

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6:55 p.m. update

As of 6 p.m., 2,217,895 ballots had been returned across Colorado, say the latest totals released by the Secretary of State's office.

Democrats: 732,700

Republicans: 725,464

Unaffiliated: 728,004

That's more than 125,000 more voters than cast ballots in the 2014 midterm. In 2014, 231,000 El Paso County voters cast ballots. There have been nearly 239,000 voters this time. The boom in local and statewide voters being bigger than 2014 is significant. The 2014 vote involved a turnout approaching 70 percent. It's going to be higher this time.

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6:45 p.m. update

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6:38 p.m. update

Colorado Springs resident Jack Winchester arrived to the Democratic watch party at the Gold Room in downtown Colorado Springs just before the rest of the crowd. He said he always appears to support Democratic candidates, according to Gazette reporter Conrad Swanson.

For the statehouse, Wichester said he is supporting Pete Lee and Tony Exum Sr.

Lee is currently a state representative for Colorado's House District 18, but since he is term limited, he is now running for Colorado's Senate District 11 against Republican Pat McIntyre.

Exum is currently a state representative for Colorado's House District 17 and is defending his seat against Republican Catherine Roupe, from whom he won the seat last year.

Winchester said he knows both Lee and Exum personally and believes their work in the statehouse has benefited their constituents.

On a larger scale, Winchester said he wants Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn to lose his position in Colorado's conservative 5th Congressional District.

Lamborn is currently seeking a seventh term against Democratic challenger and political newcomer Stephany Rose Spaulding.

"Complacency is what I see with Lamborn. He doesn't want to do any debates or participate in any community events," Winchester said. "As far as I'm concerned he doesn't represent me because I've never seen the man."

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Photo by Conrad Swanson.

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6:35 p.m. update

A half hour before the polls closed, the Republican victory party at the Marriott South in Park Meadows in Lone Tree, according to Colorado Politics reporter Joey Bunch.

Soft jazz played as reporters milled about setting up for either the victory or concession speech for GOP gubernatorial nominee Walker Stapleton.

Expectations were tempered from top party members throughout the day as Stapleton has trailed Democratic nominee Jared Polis in internal and public polls throughout the general election race.

Many have pointed out that polls were wrong two years ago when Republican Donald Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton to win the White House. Clinton, however, won Colorado by 6 percentage points, and Democrats think they have the unaffiliated voters in their corner.

About 1.5 million Coloradans voters in the 2014 midterms and the number topped 2 million early in the day Tuesday, with wome exceeding male voters by more than twice the margin at which they outpaced men four years ago.

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Photo by Joey Bunch.

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6:20 p.m. update

Democratic Sen. Leroy Garcia of Pueblo visited the main ballroom of the Westin Hotel in downtown Denver about an hour before the polls closed to survey the media scrum (because that's most of who was there at the 6 p.m. hour), according to Colorado Politics reporter Marianne Goodland.

He's running for his second term in the state Senate, but he's got his eye on another job that might be his come Thursday — President of the Senate.

Garcia is currently the Senate minority leader of the 16-member Senate Democratic caucus. They're two seats down to the Republicans' 18 on Tuesday. Five races that have drawn millions of dollars in ads are expected to decide which party runs the Senate in the 2019 session. Should Democrats win four of those five races, Garcia is in line to be the next Senate President when the Democrats caucus on Thursday.

Garcia is viewed as a moderate Democrat in his caucus and tonight he's also a cautiously-optimistic Democrat — both for his own hopes on Tuesday and for his caucus's hopes for 2019.

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6:15 p.m. update

As of 5 p.m., 2,133,397 ballots had been returned across Colorado, say the latest totals released by the Secretary of State's office. 

Democrat: 709,301

Republican: 700,697

Unaffiliated: 693,669

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Voters cast their ballots at the Library 21c on Tuesday, November 6, 2018, in Colorado Springs. The library will be open until 7 p.m. for voters to drop off their mail in ballots or vote in person. (Photo by Dougal Brownlie, The Gazette)

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5:45 p.m. update

Don’t forgot the "dark horses."

This year, 55 candidates who don't represent one of the two major parties are running for statewide, congressional and legislative seats in Colorado. They included candidates from the Libertarian party, the Green party and something called the Approval Voting Party.

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5:43 p.m. update

New polling showed that nationally, voters cited President Trump and health care as two of the most important factors as they chose their candidates in the midterm election. According to preliminary results from a Washington Post-Schar School survey of battleground districts, about 4 in 10 people said one of those topics — Trump or health care — was among the two most important issues in their vote.

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5:33 p.m. update

Grace Sweeney-Maurer, the Democratic challenger seeking to oust Republican El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder, arrived early at the Democratic watch party at the Gold Room at 18 S. Nevada Ave. to help crews set up. She said she's ready for the race to be over and wants people to know she went the distance with Elder.

"I’m like a kid at Christmas, I can’t wait to see what Santa brought," she said.

As of 5:20 p.m., perhaps a dozen people had arrived to the party, but many more are expected to show as the evening progresses.

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5 p.m. update

What advice would you give the next governor? Colorado Politics sought the input of eight prominent figures in state politics, academia and media. From their various vantage points, they've gleaned more than a thing or two about the state's top elected post.

"... The driving underlying purpose in your first term should be seeking opportunities to unite the state," former state Senate President Peter Groff — a noted peacemaker in his time at the legislative helm — writes in one of the essays.

Former Gov. Bill Ritter offers in another of the essays: "To govern successfully, you need to understand how your agenda intersects with the lives of all Coloradans, no matter their political stripe."

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Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper goes over some notes before making his rounds with the media. He is welcomed to the Democratic Watch party Sen. Leroy Garcia from Pueblo. Garcia will become the next Colorado Senate President if the Democrats take control of the senate tonight. Tuesday, November 6, 2018. They were attending the watch party at the downtown Westin in Denver, Colorado, on Tuesday, November 6, 2018. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)

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4:40 p.m. update

Members of the Colorado National Guard are at the Secretary of State's office, "helping to monitor all systems for suspicious traffic," a news release says.

"The National Guard members are investigating reports from federal agencies regarding known bad actors to ensure entities haven’t compromised Colorado's network. All of the members are highly skilled and trained incident responders and work as defensive cyber operations officers in the guard."

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4 p.m. update

Reporter Jakob Rodgers talked to voters at the El Paso County Citizens Service Center, 1675 Garden of the Gods Rd., at midday. Voters can drop off ballots or register to vote there.

Nicholas Ernster, 33, of Colorado Springs said he normally just votes in presidential elections but came out this time to vote as a statement against President Donald Trump.

"It was an illegitimate election, and that brings about a lot of resistance," Ernster said. "He didn't win the popular vote, and now he gets to run amok."

He voted down the ballot for Democrats. And he said he'll continue voting in midterms.

"I didn't realize how important they were," Ernster said. "This time around seemed pretty critical, and I imagine it's always been pretty critical — I just didn't realize it."

Li-Kesha Thornton-Dreher, 48, of Monument also voted in a midterm election for the first time, after having focused on presidential contests for most of her life.

She voted mostly for Democrats, including gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis. She was most passionate about gun control issues, amid the mass school shooting in Parkland, Fla.

She said it isn't surprising that Democratic women are showing up in droves.

"They're afraid of losing their rights," Thornton-Dreher said.

Milan Cikanek, 59, of Colorado Springs, and his daughter, Stephanie Cikanek, 23, said their votes amounted to statements in support of Trump, and all he's done over the last two years.

Milan Cikanek cited the strong economy, low unemployment and the tax cuts passed by GOP lawmakers last year.

"I like what I see," Cikanek said.

He also said Trump's tough anti-immigration stance was a major reason for support. He immigrated to the U.S. 40 years ago as a political refugee from Czechoslovakia. And he wants people to enter the country legally, as he did.

"It's about equality," Milan Cikanek said.

"It's about coming here for the right reasons, not the wrong reasons," added his daughter, Stephanie.

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3:15 p.m. update

The Colorado Secretary of State has released totals for the number of ballots received as of 2:33 p.m.

Democrat: 689,238

Republican: 679,685

Unaffiliated: 665,669

Total: 2,062,777

The latest statewide ballot total barely surpasses 2014, when 2,051,591 ballots were cast. And there's a long way to go before Colorado reaches 2016 levels. During that election, 2,884,807 voted, according to the Secretary of State's office.

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2 p.m. update

Ballots have been rolling in Tuesday, with Democrats holding a slim lead in the number of ballots returned.

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1:45 p.m. update

Haven't voted? There's still time. Here's your Election Day cheat sheet.

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More coverage:

Polling has indicated a possible major shift in Colorado, raising the possibility that purple Colorado could become a blue bastion

A handful of races in the Colorado Senate and some key races in the Colorado House will either bring about that blue wave or hold it off.

Depending upon the poll, Democrat Jared Polis comes into Election Day with either a 5- or 7-point lead. Whether Walker Stapleton is able to close the gap or not, this year's gubernatorial campaign has been anything but civil

A number of impactful amendments and initiatives are on the ballot. Perhaps the most controversial of these are Amendment 74 and Proposition 112.

Ellie is a crime and breaking news reporter. She's a proud Midwesterner, stationery hoarder and Earl Grey tea enthusiast. After interning at The Gazette in 2015, she joined the newspaper's staff in 2016.

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