GOP May Have Edge In Colorado's Early Voting

fromKUNC

In the battleground state of Colorado, the popularity of voting early and by mail means that a majority of the electorate may have already cast their vote prior to Election Day. Early voting is often seen as benefiting Democrats, as it did in Colorado in 2008. But this year, the early tally may tell a different story.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now, let's talk next about Colorado, where Republicans edged ahead in early voting, the same early voting that was key to Democratic success back in 2008. Kirk Siegler of member station KUNC has our story.

KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: Early voting at polling stations like this one in downtown Denver ended this past Friday, but yesterday there was a steady stream of voters dropping off their mail-in ballots.

PAMELA MALONE: Well, I was just turning in my vote before the final last hours...

SIEGLER: Pamela Malone and close to two million other Coloradans are expected to cast their votes prior to Election Day this year. She says she's not paying that much attention to the early trends.

MALONE: Because a lot of people do make last-minute votes like myself.

SIEGLER: But both presidential campaigns are paying close attention to that early tally, which so far shows about 30,000 more Republicans have voted than Democrats. Independent pollster Floyd Ciruli credits this surge to the state GOP's focus on voter registration.

FLOYD CIRULI: Frankly, they lost this state by nine points four years ago. They could not take the Senate two years ago. They lost by about 30,000 votes. So I think to some extent they approached this election realizing that they had to make up a lot of ground. They obviously have.

SIEGLER: But Ciruli notes those early voting tallies also include about a half million of Colorado's famously independent, or unaffiliated, voters. And despite Republicans having an overall edge, a closely watched Denver Post poll this past weekend showed President Obama with a three point lead among those surveyed who say they planned to vote before Election Day. Ciruli says Mr. Obama may have gotten a bump from Hurricane Sandy.

CIRULI: Either we've had a bit of a shift or we're just getting the unbelievable polling noise that you've seen in this election.

SIEGLER: Nevertheless, there's a palpable sense of urgency in this state among Democrats in particular, worried about their base not turning out.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC AND CHEERING)

SIEGLER: When the president staged a Get Out the Vote rally in the liberal college town of Boulder late last week, congressman Jared Polis pushed people to vote early.

REPRESENTATIVE JARED POLIS: I personally voted for Barack Obama earlier this week at the University Club here on campus, some of you joined me in that.

(APPLAUSE)

POLIS: And if you haven't done the same, what are you waiting for?

SIEGLER: Both candidates and their running-mates have been blitzing the state these last few days, trying to court every single last voter. It caps off what's been an unprecedented year of visits by presidential candidates to Colorado, which has just nine electoral votes. But it's also a sign of just how close this race could be.

For NPR News, I'm Kirk Siegler, in Denver.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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