We said last week that there was one way and one way only for the proposed $3 Billion tax increase known as Prop 103 to pass and that was conservative voter apathy. Luckily, GOP voters have turned out in far larger numbers than Democrats, which is not welcome news for Rollie Heath and his Tax Hike Team of liberal legislators. As of ballots returned over the weekend, the statewide turnout was 42% Republican, 33% Democrat and 25% Unaffiliated. This ratio has remained the same since last week, seeming to infer there will be no mass influx of Democrat votes at the end, despite Colorado Pols protestations to the contrary.
As of October 1, 2011, the state's active registration was 37% Republican, 33% Democrat and 29% Unaffiliated, meaning the GOP is overperforming by 5% whereas Democrats are performing right at their registration level and Unaffiliateds are underperforming by 5%. In raw vote GOP voters outpace Democrats by 65,000 votes, though that by itself does not necessarily mean defeat for Prop 103. In 2010, Republicans had a raw vote lead over Democrats by 108,000 votes coming into Election Day and still lost the Governor and Senate races.
To get a closer look at where those votes are coming from, we've analyzed the top 11 most populous counties comparing votes by party registration to total ballots mailed. For Denver and Pueblo that includes inactive failed to vote (IFTV) voters. As the party registrations are not published for that small subset of voters, the analysis is limited total turnout in those two counties.
(**Note: Arapahoe County is only showing 25% turnout, but it is a notoriously slow county to report turnout. With a competitive mayor's race in Aurora, turnout is expected to be much higher, meaning the 25% number is expected to jump significantly when results start to be tabulated. Sources say it's expected to be about 40k in Aurora alone.)
According to the Colorado Peak Politics analysis, the biggest turnout is in Mesa County, where 49% of voters have returned ballots, including 53% of the county's 13,531 Democrats and 49% of the county's 31,133 Republicans.
Next up are El Paso and Jefferson counties, with 37% turnout, with the GOP outperforming the Democrats as a percent of active voter registration 41-37 in El Paso and 42-38 in Jefferson. As the number of GOP active registered voters in JeffCo and El Paso is significantly higher than Democrat registration, that translates into a lot more Republican votes in the bank. For El Paso the Republican raw vote lead over Democrats is 29,604 and in JeffCo it is 8,796.
This is potentially good news for the GOP-backed school board candidacies of Jim Powers and Preston Branaugh, who have been fighting an uphill battle against candidates supported by the powerful teacher's unions.
The lowest turnout county as a percent of ballots mailed is Denver, where only 27% of voters have returned their ballots, despite heavy spending in the school board races and a vicious fight over Initiative 300, which would mandate small businesses provide up to 9 paid sick days per year for their employees.
Democrats are outperforming Republicans 34-33 in Adams County in addition to Mesa. The performance is tied in Larimer and Douglas as a percent of voter registration. The GOP is turning out at higher levels in Arapahoe, Boulder, El Paso, Jefferson, and Weld.
With the highest turnout seen among conservative counties, there are high hopes among opponents of Prop 103 that it will go down in defeat in a big way.
The big question tonight is not whether or not Prop 103 loses, but by how much.
If it's a close vote, we fully expect the entire liberal establishment, including Governor Hickenlooper, to come trick-or-treating in the near future asking for a significantly higher tax increase than $3 billion. Should the ballot measure lose by big margins, groups like the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and the teacher's unions would have significant pause about spending resources to support a tax increase in the next year or two.
As it's too late to mail your ballot today, make sure you drop it off at an approved vote center or your County Clerk and Recorder's office.
Also make sure to check back at the Peak for the latest election results, which will be available here shortly after 7.