John Aguilar --- The Denver Post
More than 32,000 additional registered Democrats in Colorado had returned their ballots at this point in the election season four years ago as compared with this year.
Republican voters, meanwhile, have kept pace this fall with their ballot return rate from 2010, in each year mailing back just over 379,000 ballots by the time October came to a close. Democrats have returned nearly 295,000 ballots across the state as of Wednesday, the most recent day the Colorado secretary of state's office released data.
That differential has Republican strategists, like Kelly Maher, positively giddy.
"I'm freaking out, man," she said. "Sometimes I think I might be on the most elaborate Punk'd ever."
While Democrats over the past week narrowed the returned ballot gap by a small amount percentage-wise and there are still five days left for voters to get their ballots in, Maher said the strong and lasting Republican advantage in voter participation thus far cannot be ignored. Ballots were first mailed out on Oct. 14.
"I am amazed the numbers have held this big of a spread for this long," she said.
But the difference in the election will likely come from unaffiliated voters, 222,000 of whom have so far returned their ballots. This year represents the first even-numbered year that every voter in the state received a mail-in ballot by default, the result of voting legislation passed by the General Assembly last year.
Democratic strategist Steve Welchert is still hanging on to the hope that Democrats tend to procrastinate more than Republicans when it comes to voting.
He suspects that a number of ballots will get dropped into the mail with bill payments and other obligations that tend to get addressed on the first of the month.
"Saturday is going to be bigger than Tuesday," Welchert said. "I think there will be lines of cars, like on April 15, at the post office."
He also said that in his analysis of voter databases, he's finding that there are fewer new voter names under the Republican column this year than is the case with Democrats when compared to recent elections.