With one last weekend to go, voter turnout in Jefferson County for Tuesday’s election looks much like it did in 2013, when the conservative majority for the Jefferson County Board of Education was swept in.
As of Friday, according to the Secretary of State, 93,089 ballots had been turned in to the Jefferson County elections division. That includes 32,029 Democrats, 33,680 Republicans, and 26,584 unaffiliated voters.
That’s about half of the total number of ballots cast in the 2013 election that brought in the conservative majority. However, of the 178,000 votes received in 2013, more than 40,000 voters did not take a side in the school board races.
Turnout in 2013 was low in Jefferson County, not unusual for an odd-numbered year election. Of 413,000 eligible voters, only 43 percent cast ballots.
But if repeated this year, that low voter turnout may actually favor the five candidates backed by those supporting the recall of the three conservative members of the Jefferson County Board of Education: John Newkirk, Julie Williams and Ken Witt.
“Low voter turnout tends to favor the most passionate, enthusiastic and most angry,” according to Seth Masket, a political science professor at the University of Denver who looks at voter turnout. “Those are the people who are most able to get people out to vote” and it tends to favor those with more at stake personally. In a school board race, Masket said, that would be teachers and their immediate family and friends.
Masket also said that there’s little to indicate that 2015 will be a high-turnout election, even with constant reminders through ads and campaigns that an election is coming. Even a 40 percent turnout in an odd-numbered year election is doing well, Masket said.
The pro-recall side has been noisiest, if not the most passionate. Twice in the last two months, supporters have lined long stretches of Wadsworth Blvd., one of the main north-south streets in the county, with signs advocating for the recall of the three board members and for voters to cast their ballots in favor of the slate of five candidates supported by the pro-recall side.
Ballotpedia, a website calls that itself the “encyclopedia of American politics,” in a list of top ten nationwide races to watch on November 3, lists the Jeffco recall as number one.
Photo credit; Erik (HASH) Hersman, Creative Commons, Flickr.