Early voters smashing records in Douglas, El Paso counties

Douglas County is heating up with a feisty four-way Republican primary in Congressional District 6, the territory of outgoing Rep. Tom Tancredo. Yet many voters may cast their ballots from the comfort of their own homes.

According to County Clerk and Recorder Jack Arrowsmith, more than 53,000 voters have requested mail ballots and 6,000 of them have already turned them in ahead of the Aug. 12 primary. Arrowsmith says that the colossal demand for absentee ballots may point to higher voter turnout.

"We have never had more than 22,000 votes [in a primary]," says Arrowsmith. "To get most of the [ballots] back, that will be a huge turnout for the primary."

In neighboring El Paso County to the south, 60,000 requests for early and absentee ballots have flooded the clerk and recorders office — more than twice as many as requested themtwo years ago. Colorado Independent reported late last week that 5,000 of those ballots had already been returned in El Paso County, where three heated Republican primaries are helping to drive interest in one of the state’s most conservative bastions.

Douglas County, home to around 93,300 registered Republicans and Democrats, is also heavily Republican: With 37,195 Republicans and 16,334 Democrats, Douglas County’s reds outnumber the blues more than two to one.

This year’s Republican ballot is especially crowded, with four candidates vying to replace Tancredo in the northern Colorado district thatlies just above Arapahoe County. Secretary of State Mike Coffman is at the top of the list in terms of fundraising, and he’s trailed by Wil Armstrong, the CEO of the technology firm Blueberry Systems;Ted Harvey, a state senator; and Steve Ward, a Marine colonel and state senator.

Hank Eng, a Democrat and aerospace engineer, has also thrown his hat in the ring.

In spite of the heated Republican primary, Arrowsmith won’t give any insight into whether the large number of absentee voters will actually turn their ballots in en masse.

"You ask what I predict? Boy, I just couldn’t tell you," he says.

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Naomi Zeveloff

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