20 Percent of Coloradans Cast Early Ballots, Officials Say
DENVER (AP) _ Thousands of registered voters waited up to two hours in line Friday so they could cast early ballots for Tuesday’s general election.
″It’s a mad house. I’ve never seen anything like it and I’ve been in it for 30 years,″ said Matt Peulen, an election judge in Pueblo County where voters began lining up at 6:30 a.m. for the office to open at 8 a.m.
This year, Colorado began letting voters cast early ballots by mail or in person at county offices without requiring a reason. The early-voting period ended Friday at county election offices, but absentee ballots will be accepted until the polls close Tuesday night.
About 20 percent of registered voters took advantage of the early-voting period, estimated Secretary of State Natalie Meyer. In an average year, between 5 percent and 10 percent cast absentee ballots.
She predicted Colorado voter turnout would reach 75 percent for Tuesday’s election, compared with 70 percent in 1988.
Some county election officials say the presidential election plus major races and issues in Colorado have contributed to the heavy turnout. Others say the turnout will build every year because early voting provides people with an option to Election Day.
″I’ve seen people actually kissing their ballot as they put them into the box,″ Donald Eischen, an election worker in Boulder County. ″There is a sense of empowerment in this election that I haven’t seen in a long time.″
On Friday, voters seeking information found busy phone lines at election offices across the state. Queues for casting early ballots ranged from about one-half hour up to two hours in many offices.
Many counties have extended hours, opened on Saturdays and added temporary staffers to accommodate voters.