Seth Jackson served his country for six years in the U.S. Army National Guard, but this year is the first time the 27-year-old felt a drive to take part in deciding who should lead the United States.
“I guess in my early years, I didn’t really understand (its importance),” the Lakewood resident said after he voted in person Thursday at the Belmar Library. “I was kind of oblivious to many things.”
Like Jackson, unaffiliated voter Tabor Benton, 24, turned in his ballot for the first time Thursday.
“I thought I needed to do it in this political climate,” he said at the drop box at Mission Viejo Library in Aurora, adding, “I think it’s just really how the coronavirus has been handled.”
Jackson and Benton are among 2,524,240 Coloradans who cast their ballots as of Sunday morning — and also among the nearly 37% who are unaffiliated. More than 67% of Colorado’s active voters and 59% of eligible voters have cast their ballots, according to Judd Choate, the state’s election director.
“At this pace Colorado could be the first U.S. state (ever) to reach 80% turnout among eligible voters,” Choate wrote on Twitter.
The numbers have already turnout set records for two days before the election, noted Republican pollster David Flaherty of Magellan Strategies
“What’s driving is what drove it in 2018,” he said. “We had such a historic election then where unaffiliated voters participated in an election at a level that we’ve never seen before.”
In an extraordinary presidential election year complicated by a pandemic and protests for racial justice, Colorado voters say national issues are driving them to the polls, or the ballot box. Several statewide issues and races have national implications, too, such as proposed abortion restrictions and the national popular vote.
Democrats are leading the way in percentage of active registered Democratic voters who have turned in their ballots at 77.3%, followed by Republicans’ 71.5% and unaffiliated’s 62.1%, according to data compiled by Magellan.
Although neither Jackson nor Benton are affiliated with a political party, their leanings differ — Jackson supports the reelection of Trump while Benton voted for Joe Biden. Colorado is expected to vote for Biden, but both parties are depending on unaffiliated voters to help their causes.
For Jackson, his ballot this year was about taking a stand for protecting the U.S. Constitution and biblical principles, and a newfound conviction that every vote matters. Although he denounced what he called “bloviation” from both parties, he said the Republican Party’s platform most aligns with his ideals, including on abortion. But Jackson also wanted to make sure to cast a vote against Colorado’s participation in the National Popular Vote Compact, citing once again the ideals of the Constitution.
Benton said he chose the candidate and not the party, particularly based on Biden’s plans for health care and renewable energy.
The increased polarization around Trump and the country’s political parties has also added a sense of urgency for long-time voters.
Aurora resident Tsehaye Tige views elections, particularly this year’s, through the lens of equality and human rights. She worries about another four years of a Trump presidency and the effects it could have on social justice.
“America’s come a long way,” Tige said. “I hope we’re going to succeed.”
Eric Redland, a registered Republican, brought his 89-year-old mother with him Thursday as he cast his vote in Lakewood. He said he’s tired of the liberal push behind various movements, which seem to be at “such a fever pitch.”
“Things aren’t as bad as they seem,” Redland said.
Democrat Bertha Adamson, however, worries not only about Trump but the groups that have been energized by his presidency, including those espousing bigoted ideals.
“There are a lot of things that are broken, and I’m really worried about the future of this democracy,” Adamson said, noting issues of voter suppression and racial justice.
In addition to federal-level politics, she also pointed to the importance of statewide ballot issues and down-ticket races. She said she’s been frustrated with groups trying to get their own priorities on the ballot, doing an end-run around those whom Coloradans have voted to lead them, whether it’s the anti-abortion measure, the measure that would force votes on fees or the proposed income tax cut.
Proposition 115, the 22-week abortion ban, is one of the statewide issues that has received the most attention and money in Colorado’s election this year, and it’s expected to be a close race. With the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court, Colorado’s statewide issue has become a focus on a national level.
The measure was so confusing to Lakewood voter Clinton Day, he said he had to read it multiple times. But to him, penalizing doctors for performing abortions is unconstitutional and “heinous.”
In addition to “getting the Republican Party out,” Jamie Covelli — a registered Democrat who doesn’t like the country’s two-party political system — said the abortion issue is among the top statewide issues to defeat.
“A woman should definitely have a choice over their own body,” Covelli said.
Christine Smidt, a registered Republican, felt more strongly about voting this year than she did four years ago. Although she said she understands a woman’s decision to have an abortion is very difficult, she ultimately voted in favor of the 22-week ban.
At a time when the country is so divided, filling out a ballot has taken on special importance and meaning for Smidt. People should use their right to vote as a way to have their voices heard, she said. But she also noticed another difference this year.
“I feel a lot more educated,” Smidt said. “I feel a lot more empowered.”
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