In Colorado, GOP maintains edge in early voting

The latest early-vote tallies (pdf) released this afternoon by the Colorado secretary of state show Republican holding on to a steady lead. The Halloween release reported that registered Republicans have cast 38.2 percent of 1,150,698 votes collected so far in the state. Democrats have cast 35.2 percent and unaffiliated voters 25.6 percent. Today’s total percentages are roughly unchanged from Tuesday’s but, with less than a week to Election Day, less-partisan unaffiliated voters– the largest voting bloc in the state– seem to be beginning to turn out in greater numbers.

Republicans are also notching consistent leads over Democrats in the numbers of ballots cast in Front Range suburban Arapahoe, Jefferson and Larimer counties– the three key swing counties where large percentages of unaffiliated voters live and where elections are generally won and lost in the state.

In the four sets of numbers released since the end of last week, Republicans have led Democrats in the three swing counties by roughly 2,000 votes.

That consistent lead looks ominous for Democrats, but likely more so to those watching from afar. Indeed, the Obama for America blog on early voting numbers explores news coming from Ohio, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina and Virginia, for example, but nothing yet from Colorado.

Local Democrats, however, point out that Republicans here traditionally vote earlier than Democrats do and that most of the early voting in Colorado this year has so far come from mail-in ballots. Republicans, they say, enjoy an advantage on that score. A great deal of general-election Obama supporters failed to cast ballots in the 2010 Tea Party wave election and so fell into the “inactive voter” category and off the mail-in ballot rolls in the state. Like first-time voters, those Democrats will have to visit early voting stations or vote on Election Day.

What’s more, the state has a much greater number of unaffiliated voters this year than it did in 2008, when Obama won here by 9 percentage points. Whereas the numbers of registered Democratic and Republican voters have edged up proportionally since 2008, each gaining about 90,000 voters, the number of registered unaffiliated voters in the state jumped by about 225,000 voters.

According to the latest available voter registration numbers, there are 1,150, 527 Registered Democrats, 1,157,083 registered Republicans and 1,293,492 registered unaffiliated voters in Colorado.

Democrats say large voter registration efforts conducted here this year by Democratic campaigns and left-leaning organizations account for much of the jump in unaffiliated registrations and will translate to large unaffiliated-voter support for Democratic candidates.

Pollsters and campaign staff see the race in Colorado as the tightest in the nation. The most recent swing-state polls put Obama ahead in most of the contests. They still list the race in Colorado as a dead heat.

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