An avalanche of mail-in ballots sweeping through El Paso County

El Paso County Clerk & Recorder Bob Balink reports that a veritable avalanche of early primary ballots has blanketed his office — more than 5,000 in the first week of returns — in a year with a record-breaking 60,000 requests for mail ballots for the Aug. 12 primary election. It doesn’t hurt that a handful of red-hot Republican primary contests are sizzling up the atmosphere in one of Colorado’s most conservative bastions.

“With four weeks remaining until the August 12th primary election and nearly four months until the November 4th general election we are certain the record number of mail-in ballot requests in 2008 will far exceed any previous year by a large margin,” Balink announced late this week.

Two years ago, half as many mail-in ballots were sent to voters in the southern Colorado county — the state’s most populated. Since then, state law has been changed to allow people to become permanent mail-in voters.

Certainly driving early voter interest are three heavily contested Republican primaries. 

In the 5th Congressional District, Jeff Crank and Bentley Rayburn are challenging Rep. Doug Lamborn in a race that is getting uglier by the day. Attorney Mark Waller has taken on state Rep. Douglas Bruce in a race that has been ugly from day one. And attorney Dan May has returned for a grudge match against District Attorney John Newsome, after Newsome was captured on video this spring drinking the equivalent of a 13-pack in a downtown Colorado Springs bar and then getting into his county-owned SUV and driving away.   

Notably, in 2006 the early and absentee vote put Lamborn over the top in a closely contested five-way race against Crank, Rayburn and two others. Once all the votes were tallied, Lamborn finished first, beating Crank with less than 1,000 votes.