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With a strong start, a lagging middle, and a rip-roaring ending, Chaffee County voters turned out for the 2022 midterms; achieving a 74.4 percent voter turnout.

Unaffiliated voters played a major role in this election. A few years ago, each Colorado County decorated their own “U” — representing the growing role of unaffiliated voters in Colorado elections. This is Chaffee County’s “U”. AVV file photo.

The local turnout far exceeded the Colorado statewide voter turnout of 49.86 percent:

State-wide ballots cast            1,905,950
Active Voters                             3,822,916

Chaffee Midterm votes cast:        11,731
Active Voters                                   15,758

Chaffee County Voter Affiliation:

Democrats       3,956                        25.1%
Republicans    4,247                        26.9%
Unaffiliated     7,250                        46.0%

The ballot returns for Tuesday, November 8 broke all expectations in this county. The Chaffee County Clerk and Recorder’s Office processed more than  3,000 mail ballots and 400 walk-in voters on Tuesday alone.

In fact, nearly one in every four ballots cast in Chaffee County was returned or voted ON election day, and much of that from mid-afternoon onward.

This young person proudly took a selfie of depositing their election ballot Nov. 1 at the drop box in front of the Chaffee County Administration building Nov. 1. We’d really like to know if it was their first time voting, so please get in touch with us at AVV. Dan Smith photo.

“The most we had ever done was 1,800 ballots in a day,” said Chaffee Clerk and Recorder Lori Mitchell. “We did almost 3,000 mail ballots and 400 in-person voters — it was literally a record in every way possible. We were so tired yesterday, and we still had counting to finish.”

Chaffee County has had higher voter turnout than these midterms, just not such high returns on a single day.

“I know they are proud — they’re just tired right now,” said Mitchell of her staff and the election judges and all the volunteers. “They always step up and do the right thing, but people are tired.”

Per state law, all Colorado Clerk’s offices have to wait eight days to finalize the unofficial results, adding absentee and military returns.

“The only race that is close is 2B – it is the city of Salida, and we don’t think the results are going to change,” she added. “We’ll wait the eight days and do the final official announcement.”

Asked about the surprise situation in Colorado Congressional District 3 where only fifty-some votes separate incumbent Lauren Boebert and Democrat challenger Adam Frisch, Mitchell said, “Our poor friends in Pueblo are still counting. If we got that many on election day, I can imagine how many they got. We were so tired and they are still counting. Our thoughts are with them.”

The re-districted Third Congressional district is now a sweep of western and southern Colorado counties, wrapping around the Seventh District. So for the first time, the more Democrat-leaning Pueblo County is included in Boebert’s District.

Lessons from the 2022 Election

No one can say for sure why this massive same-day turnout occurred. But one reason may be because former President Donald Trump and his followers have repeatedly cast doubt on early voting as practiced in many states, including Colorado.

There are a few obvious conclusions regarding election results:

  • Making candidates distrust early voting would appear to be a tactical blunder. Shifting an entire political party to turn in ballots late and vote in-person is a recipe for uncertainty due to weather, natural disasters or apathy.
  • This election, at least in the state of Colorado and certainly in Chaffee County, was decided by unaffiliated voters. What is as yet unknown, is the impact of young and first-time voters in the county, or this state.

“Colorado is a purple state,” said Bennet. “The largest voting block in Colorado is unaffiliated voters, and we don’t take them for granted. Always run like you are 20 points behind.”

  • At least in Colorado, and perhaps in Chaffee, there was a rejection of the chaos and dysfunction and a reinforcement of our expectations that regular democracy prevail.

“We saw a rejection of Trump and a rejection of chaos,” said Bennet. “We’ve made progress in a bipartisan manner — consider the bipartisan bills we’ve gotten done [in the past two years] … a bipartisan veterans’ bill, a bipartisan gun bill, a bipartisan infrastructure bill, a bipartisan inflation reduction bill.”

  • While inflation and economic concerns are definitely there, the disastrous Dobbs decision that rolled back the Roe v. Wade Constitutional rights of women’s reproductive health galvanized women in this state, and quite possibly in this county.