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Colorado Votes: Election Day
--CPR is relying on our listeners to help us spot the good, the bad, and the crowded this election day. How was your voting experience? We're collecting polling place stories through our Public Insight Network.
-- Colorado Public Radio's Megan Verlee is taking part in the NewsHour's live election day blog. Find news from all around the country there. Her posts are also reproduced below:
Updates from the Democratic Party Headquarters (Ben Markus will have coverage of the Republican celebrations in Morning Edition tomorrow)
9:30pm -- Colorado's Democratic State Party Chair announces to the crowd that Colorado is being called for President Obama. The news is met with rousing cheers, but if the enthusiasm seems a little restrained, it's because only moments earlier, CNN called the entire election for the president. Party Chair Rick Palacio tells the crowd they're going to turn the music back on as they prepare for speeches. "No," shouts the audience, demanding that the CNN feed be left up to continue following other results.
9:19pm -- It looks like Colorado voters have legalized the possession of marijuana for recreational use. Current returns show the measure leading 55 to 47 percent. In a statement, opponents complained they were outspent by a "well-funded national movement" and warn "We can only hope that our concerns and fears about amending the Constitution to make Colorado the first state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana do not come true.” Putting marijuana legalization into the state constitution may raise thorny legal issues if the federal government challenges the policy, as expected.
8:20pm -- The highest profile initiative on the Colorado ballot this year would legalize the possession of marijuana for recreational use. The state's Democratic governor, John Hickenlooper, came out against the measure and it's attracted little support from elected Democrats. But the party faithful out celebrating tonight have cheered every time the TV updates the vote count showing the measure ahead. With about half the results in, it's getting 52 percent of the vote to 43 percent against.
7:05pm -- Polls are now closed in the state. The first big dump of returns is expected in 15 minutes. Over 70 percent of the state's active voters participated in the election this year.
Latest turnout numbers from the Secretary of State's office, as of 5:10pm: 55% of registered voters have cast ballots so far, a total of 2,007,747 Coloradans. That's an increase of 134,760 votes since this morning. Republicans make up 36% of the turnout so far, Democrats 34%, a difference of 42,124 votes. Unaffiliated voter turnout lags, at 29% of the total ballots.
CPR freelancer Shanna Lewis found short lines but enthusiastic voters at the polling place near her home in Pueblo today. “I like to traditional vote. It just brings it home for me,” said Elizabeth Grutt, explaining why she waited until today to cast her ballot. “It’s an important day. We don’t need to bypass it.”
While many leaving the polling place said they were glad the long and bruising campaigns are finally over, first-time voter Marquise Enoch has a different perspective. “The campaigns were awesome,” he said. “They’re actually better than the NFL games. It was pretty cool. It was my first time actually really paying attention to it.” Enoch told Lewis he enjoyed the debates and liked the enthusiasm of the candidates. He said he’ll be watching politics from now on.
The Secretary of State is warning Arapahoe County voters to avoid long lines at the CentrePoint vote center in Aurora, where waits have apparently reached 90 minutes today. Instead, the office is suggesting voters use other locations in the county.
CPR's heard from more than thirty people through our Public Insight Netwok today telling us about their polling place experiences. Nearly all of them said things went very smoothly. Mira Rubenstein of Denver had to wait 20 minutes to drop off her ballot, but only because she arrived before the polling location opened. "Satisfying and easy" is how she describes her experience. Janice De Baca used a drive-though drop-off in Aurora and tells us "Signage and helpful people were GREAT!" In Grand Junction, Christina Hoagland voted early and says all was "easy, breezy no worries." Judy Harer did her voting at the Fruita Civic Center. Despite there being an estimated 75-100 people there, Harer says she was "in and out in about 15 minutes! Including some chatting."
CPR’s Pat Mack was out talking to voters in Glendale this morning, where polling places are crowded and turnout is higher than expected. As he dropped off his ballot, David Arcenia explained why he’s supporting President Obama.
“He’s doing pretty decent now,” Arecenia said, “We’re not out of the hole yet. But I do see recovery and I went with him.”
College student Toi Connally is also an Obama supporter, although not an enthusiastic one. She likes Obama’s expansion the student loan program. But her passion for the president is limited because she feels the economic recovery has been sluggish. “I guess he’s the lesser of the two evils,” she said.
For Kim Scott though, Obama is the wrong man to lead the economy. She says she’s barely making a living as a small business owner and thinks former governor Mitt Romney might improve things. “It would be better for businessperson to run the country and get the finances back on track.”
Also casting his ballot for Romney was Barry Lutsky, another business owner. “I just thought he had better direction for the country,” Lutsky said, “especially for business.”
In Jefferson County, a Denver suburb that could be crucial to either parties’ victory, some voters had to cast provisional ballots this morning because of confusion by poll workers.
“They couldn’t find me in the book,” Westminister voter Evelyn Cadman told CPR’s Mike Lamp, “And I had even my voter registration card that was mailed by Jefferson County elections, and still they said well you’re not in the book you have to vote a provisional ballot.”
The problem was that people with mail-in ballots were listed in a different part of the voter rolls than those voting in-person, and poll workers couldn’t find some of their names. The Jefferson County clerk’s office says it did some immediate training after the problems were reported and that all those provisional ballots will be counted.
The Secretary of State's office says Colorado is on pace to break 2008's turnout, when 92% of the state's active voters cast ballots. "There's a steady stream" at polling places, according to spokesman Rich Coolidge. Coolidge says there have been a few "hiccups" reported at a few polling places in the crucial swing counties of Arapahoe and Jefferson, with election judges misunderstanding Colorado's voter ID requirements and poll workers who misread their poll books. In general, says Coolidge, "So far so good."
Unclear what ID you'll need to vote in person today? Check the list here.
Secretary of State's office has released updated turnout numbers, through 10:10am this morning (and including all pre-election day results). 52% of Colorado's registered voters have now cast their ballots. 34,853 more Republicans have voted than Democrats, a slight widening of their lead from early voting, although still only about a 1.8% advantage. Unaffiliated voters make up 29% of the total votes cast so far.
When President Obama held his final campaign rally in Colorado on Sunday night, he was forced to backpedal from some of the usual pre-election rhetoric, telling the crowd, "In two days, everybody in the country has a choice to make... You've already made a choice, many of you..."
And it's likely that many in the crowd had already voted. Fifty-one percent of Colorado's registered voters cast ballots before Election Day, either early or through the mail. Among those early ballots, 32,963 more came from Republicans than Democrats, about a 2 percent lead. But it's unaffiliated voters, who've cast 29% of the ballots so far, who will finally determine the outcome of the election in Colorado.
In Colorado, "purple mountain majesty" has become as much a description of our politics and our landscape. Over the past three presidential elections, the state has moved from a Republican mainstay to a near-perfect political balance, a change driven by the influx in recent years of Latinos and highly-educated younger workers, and by an increasingly sophisticated and well-funded Democratic political operation. While polls show the presidential race is a dead heat here, voters have other issues to consider as well, including the first post-redistricting Congressional races and a ballot measure to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.
[Photo: Pat Mack/CPR]