Bipartisan voters ousted conservative school board majorities

One of the differences in Tuesday night’s election for school boards across the state: voter turnout. It wasn’t significantly higher than in 2013, when conservative majorities took hold in several districts, and in one district it was significantly lower.

The difference: undervotes. That’s the term used for ballots received where voters don’t vote on every race possible.

It was especially the case in Jefferson County. In 2013, when the conservative majority was elected, 178,000 ballots were cast. But more than 40,000 ballots were turned in without voting on the school board race, or about 75 percent of the ballots received.

On Tuesday, voter turnout wasn’t much different. According to unofficial results, the number of voters who participated in the 2015 election was 181,977, or 45.5 percent of the county’s 399,918 registered voters.

But between 176,00 and 178,000 ballots included a preference on the recall, as much as 98 percent of the ballots received.

In Douglas County, fewer voters cast ballots in 2015 than they had in 2013. At stake: three seats on the seven-member board, with three conservative incumbents vying with three pro-teacher candidates.

The county, with 222,275 registered voters, got ballots from 88,248, or 39.7 percent. Republicans hold a more than two-to-one advantage on voter registrations in DougCo.

Of those 88,248 ballots, about 82,000 voted in the school board races, giving decisive victories to the three challengers: Wendy Vogel in District A, Anne-Marie Lemieux in District C and David Ray in District F. All three received more than 38,000 votes each to about 27,000 each for the incumbents.

That contrasts with what happened in 2013, when 107,334 voters participated out of 217,442 registered voters, or just under 50 percent. Of those 107,334 ballots, more than 6,000 were undervotes. That might have made the difference in two of the four races, which were decided by about 3,000 votes each.

In Thompson, the total number of ballots cast in the school board race was approximately 31,000 for each of the four seats, but the pro-teacher candidates all won with about two-to-one majorities in all four races.

Photo credit: Leigh Harries, Creative Commons, Flickr

has been a political journalist since 1998. She covered the state capitol for the Silver & Gold Record from 1998 to 2009 and for The Colorado Statesman in 2010-11 and 2013-14. Since 2010 she also has covered the General Assembly for newspapers in northeastern Colorado. She was recognized with awards from the Colorado Press Association for feature writing and informational graphics for her work with the Statesman in 2012.