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Politics

Vote Counts Are Still Ongoing, Despite Colorado's Biggest Races Being Called On Election Night

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Adam Rayes
/
KUNC
New ballots arriving at the Weld County counting board at 9 p.m. on election night, after many big races were called.

Election judges worked well into the night to get ballots to processing facilities, verify signatures and count them. Ballots were still being counted in many counties this morning and some may go into the afternoon.

Boulder County had at least 30,000 ballots uncounted at midnight, well after six out of seven U.S. House of Representative races were called.

Ballots were just starting to arrive at around 9 p.m. in Weld and Larimer Counties’ processing facilities — after former Vice President Joe Biden took the state’s electoral seats.

“We’ve got Red Feather Lakes, we’ve got Estes Park, those always take longest for us to get in,” Larimer County Clerk and Recorder Angela Myers told KUNC at 9:15 p.m. on election night. “We don’t know the numbers on what the content of those (ballot drop) boxes are yet.”

“So we will not finish tonight,” she added. “We will continue counting tomorrow.”

One voter service and polling center in Weld had a 30-minute wait time when the polls closed at 7 p.m., meaning it’s possible the last ballot there was turned in within 20 minutes of Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner conceding his seat to former governor and Democrat John Hickenlooper.

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Adam Rayes
Voters in line at the Trinity Lutheran Voter Service and Polling Center in Greeley at 6:58 p.m., just two minutes before polls closed statewide.

“I'm extremely proud of my elections team and my election judges. They just absolutely did amazing and I cannot be more proud of them than I am right now because we saw record-breaking turnout. At 2:00 p.m. (on Election Day) we surpassed our 2016 numbers,” said Weld County Clerk and Recorder Carly Koppes. “And we just continued to grow and grow and grow throughout the day. And my election judges, out of my sites, just did a phenomenal job even with the cleaning regimen and the social distancing getting those voters that decided to vote in-person in and out, and in a very, very timely manner.”

While those races got the most attention, the votes counted after they were called still matter for a lot of other ballot questions and local races.

The proposition to decide whether Colorado should reintroduce wolves to the state, for example, was still too close to call Wednesday afternoon. And the very contentious U.S. House race for the 3rd Congressional District was narrowly decided by continued counting late Tuesday night.

READ MORE: Colorado 2020 Election Live Results: Statewide Ballot Measures

It may seem like the process is moving slowly, but elections officials say this is completely normal for an all-mail ballot state like Colorado — and progress is a lot quicker than it could have been.

“The only thing that surprised us this year or that was different from our normal model is that we got more votes in early than we typically get,” Myers said. “Which is a big improvement, and I hope that continues year on year because the more folks delay, the longer it takes to get results, final unofficial results. So we were ahead of the game early on.”

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After ballots were delivered to homes in early October, Colorado voters started returning them in droves almost instantly, shattering 2016’s record ballot return numbers in the state overall and in many counties, including Larimer, Boulder and Weld. Counting those ballots started on Oct. 19, which is also when polling centers opened.

Election officials told KUNC their goal was to count all the early ballots received by Monday night, so the only ballots to process on Election Day were the ones cast that day. However, Weld, Larimer and Boulder counties still had ballots to count on Tuesday morning.

The counts taking a long time to complete isn’t inherently a function of system failures, and in some ways, officials said, it’s actually the opposite. There are many processes designed to keep elections secure and getting a ballot through all of them may take time, especially with the safety precautions required in an ongoing pandemic.

Technically, no counts are “final” until after midnight on Nov. 12. That's the deadline for overseas and military voter's mail ballots to arrive and be counted. Also, rejected ballots can be fixed by their voters and still get counted until that deadline.

READ MORE: What Happens When Your Ballot Gets Rejected? One KUNC Reporter Found Out First-Hand

Representing under 1% of all votes cast statewide and in many counties, rejected ballots (that aren’t fixed by the deadline) have never been enough to sway a statewide election in past years. But officials have said they could have made a difference in some local elections.

“I always say every single vote matters because we always have some close race here in Weld County and I want your voice to be heard,” Koppes said.

Updated: November 5, 2020 at 11:21 AM MST
This story was updated to note that overseas and military voters also have until midnight Nov. 12 for their mail ballots to arrive and be counted. That deadline is also the latest a rejected ballot can be cured.
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