Did Denver’s Vote Snafus Cost Ludwig the CU Regent Race?

Denver’s voting process yesterday was a disaster.  Lines were long.  Provisional ballots were running out at vote centers across the city.  Computer systems involved in confirming voter registration failed.  Did any of that matter?

Fortunately, the answer is no in all but a couple of cases.  But, it is may have cost Stephen Ludwig, the Democratic candidate for CU Regent At Large, his race.  It is also possible, but unlikely, that Denver Referendum 1A could have been impacted by voters being discouraged from voting on election day.In the race most sensitive to the outcome in Denver, the CU Regent at Large race, about 53,000 more voters in Denver would have been necessary to make a difference.  Currently, about 114,947 voter’s decisions have been counted, with counting continuing at this time.  This is 42% of registered voters in the City.  A 65% voter turnout, which would have been a strong turnout in Denver for a midterm election given turnout in previous elections, would have produced 178,000 votes.  This suggests that a worst case scenario discourage voter total of about 63,000 votes — although once all the votes are counted in Denver, the worst case scenario number of discouraged voters will probably be smaller.

This doesn’t mean that voting problems did cost Ludgwig the race.  It is entirely possible that voter turnout in Denver wouldn’t have been at a high level, even if there had been no problems with the conduct of the election.  Relatively few voters who managed to get to the polls actually left, and we don’t know how many voters drove by polling places or heard the news, and decided not to vote on election day.  But, an impact on the CU Regent race is the only statewide race where it is even possible that Denver’s problems had an impact.

Given the percentage support that Ken Gordon received in Denver it would have taken about 103,000 discouraged voters to change the outcome of the Colorado Secretary of State’s race.  Denver’s favored candidates for Governor and State Treasurer won, and the Attorney General’s race wasn’t close.  In the closest contested legislative race in Denver, for House District 1, wasn’t close.  Ten percentage points separated the Democrat who won, and the Republican who lost.  RTD-District N was also no close enough for discouraged or confused Denver voters to have made a difference.  The winner led by about ten percentage points and only a small number of voters in that race were cast in Dnever.  No judges were recalled, and Denver didn’t favor recalling any of them.

Denver’s Referendum 1A is still too close to call, but at this time, it is leading by 745 votes.  But, the early returns, from before election day, narrowly opposed the measure, while votes cast on election day have boosted it to passage, so it is unlikely, in fact, that more election day turnout would have changed this result. 

Denver’s Referendum 1B prevailed about 19 percentage points, so it wasn’t close.

The only statewide ballot issue where statewide voters came to a different conclusion than Denver voters, that was close enough for Denver to have possibly made a difference is Referendum H (End Business Income Tax Deduction for Compensation Paid To Illegal Immigrants).  It has received 50.76% of the statewide vote so far, giving it a 19,717 vote lead according to the Denver Post.  In Denver 52.21% of votes counted in that race so far have opposed the measure.  Thus, it would have taken more than 400,000 discouraged voters in Denver to impact that result.

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Andrew Oh-Willeke

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