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What To Watch For On Colorado Election Night

Flickr - Creative Commons
Reporters are a common sight at election night campaign headquarters. A reporter from the Denver Fox affiliate is pictured here at a Denver event in 2010.

Watching election returns can seem boring. However recent elections in Colorado have become something worth watching. Colorado's U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races are too close to call. Those race results will be the byproduct of an increasingly complex election and demographic landscape developing across the state.

What follows is a short list of characters and storylines to consider that go beyond the candidates. So pop your popcorn and settle in for some political night drama.

Independent Voters

With just one day to go before 2014 midterm votes are tallied, turnout continues to lag for Colorado's unaffiliated voters — the single largest party affiliation among active registered voters across the state.

According to returns from Colorado Secretary of State's office as of November 3, just 359,000 independent voters have returned their ballots compared to nearly 559,000 Republican and more than 446,000 Democratic voters.

Colorado State University professor of political science Kyle Saunders said independent voters tend to tune in later to elections compared to those with partisan identities—and that often means voting at the 11th hour.

"They often don't vote until Election Day, they aren't really paying attention until the election really is culminating," he said.

Saunders said only about one-third of unaffiliated voters are truly independent, meaning they don't lean Republican or Democratic.

So which way will these voters lean?

"It has definitely been the case that Republicans and Republican-leaning voters are more motivated to participate this cycle than Democrats are," he said. "But that doesn't necessarily translate into victory, especially if one side's get out the vote efforts are more successful than the others."

Latino Voters

Get-out-the-vote efforts for Latinos have been particularly strong in Colorado compared to the 2010 midterms. In 2012, Latinos overwhelmingly supported Democratic President Barack Obama. But the Colorado GOP Party is aggressively courting this group in 2014.

A 2014 Latino Decisions Poll reports that Latinos overwhelmingly plan to support Senate Democratic incumbent Mark Udall compared to Republican Challenger Cory Gardner. So how much will Republicans chip away at the Democratic Party's Latino base? And what will that mean for the 2016 presidential election?

Colorado's By-Mail Election System

Colorado's by-mail election system is being put to the test in 2014. And with the new system comes concerns about voter fraud.

One of the biggest questions has to do with how the new system will impact voter participation.

CSU's Saunders said he's expecting increased returns in 2014 compared to the 2010 midterms. In 2010, the vote count registered at 1.8 million. This year, Saunders expects the number to exceed 2 million.

Watch for how pundits unravel the impact of get-out-the-vote efforts in 2014 compared to the new convenience provided by Colorado's by-mail election system.

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