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Election results: Larimer County still counting ballots after high turnout

Jacy Marmaduke
Fort Collins Coloradoan

This year’s election is over in Larimer County, although ballot counting is still going on.

Final unofficial results from Tuesday’s election are expected to be posted Wednesday afternoon, perhaps around 5 p.m., said County Clerk Angela Myers.

Counting stopped around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday and picked up Wednesday morning. Election staff and volunteer judges have between 8,000 and 9,000 ballots to process.

Some of the ballots are coming from other counties, where they were mistakenly dropped off. Some ballots were mailed from overseas.

WHO WON? Election results for Colorado and Larimer County

So far, 226,261 ballots have been cast, or 88.9% of active registered voters. Although a strong turnout, “it isn’t a record-breaker by any stretch,” Myers said.

In 2004, turnout for the November general election was 94.64%, according to county records. In 2012, the turnout was 93.06%.

Myers said the election went smoothly, and she hopes residents are pleased with how it was administered.

“I’m extremely proud of the many citizen judges who conducted it and certainly my staff,” she said. “We have the best in the nation, these folks.”

Biden urges patience as vote counting continues

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden urged patience as votes continued to be counted late Tuesday, telling a crowd gathered in Wilmington, Delaware, that he "feels good" about the direction of the election.

Biden held 223 of the needed 270 Electoral College votes needed to win as of 10:45 p.m. Mountain time Tuesday, but President Donald Trump could make a charge through key battleground states where he currently leads after Florida and Ohio were called in his favor. 

Biden has claimed Minnesota and is expected to take Arizona, but the outcome of the presidential election is expected to be unclear into Wednesday. With some states counting Election Day votes first, mail-in ballots that may swing races toward the Democratic side could change the shape of some state races in the hours ahead.

Trump had not made a speech about the results as of 10:45 p.m. Mountain Tuesday, but via Twitter repeatedly expressed confidence that the outcome of the election would tilt in his favor.

—Eric Larsen

Updated results: Larimer Democrats sweep 3 county races

Larimer County Democrats have swept the two county commission and district attorney races, the county's 9:30 p.m. results update shows.

Commission candidates Kristin Stephens and Jody Shadduck-McNally, along with 8th Judicial District Attorney candidate Gordon McLaughlin all held insurmountable leads as of the most recent release.

All enjoyed leads of 54% to 46% on their respective GOP challengers, with election judges expected to count fewer remaining ballots than the roughly 17,000-vote spread in each race.

—Eric Larsen

Neguse, Buck win reelection to U.S. House seats

Democrat Joe Neguse will hold onto his U.S. House District 2 seat, as the Associated Press has called the race in his favor over GOP challenger Charlie Winn.

Elsewhere in Colorado, incumbent Republican Reps. Ken Buck and Doug Lamborn won their respective races in House Districts 4 and 5, respectively.

Incumbent Democrats Jason Crow and Ed Perlmutter will also claim reelection in Districts 6 and 7, respectively.

The AP called the House District 1 race for Democrat Diana DeGette earlier in the night.

That leaves the District 3 race between Republican Lauren Boebert and Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush as the only race yet to be called. Boebert holds a 50% to 46.5% lead as of 8:45 p.m.

—Eric Larsen

First-time voters cheered by Larimer County poll workers

Austin Fitka wasn’t old enough to vote in 2016, and he remembers how angry he and his high school classmates in Sitka, Alaska, were with the outcome.

For the better part of the past month, he was afraid he wouldn’t get to cast a ballot in this presidential election, either, after moving from Alaska to Florida to Colorado in an 11-month period.

“We’ve been bouncing around, and we’ve been having a problem because COVID fell down on top of us,” Fitka, 21, said. “We weren’t able to get any driver’s licenses, because everything has been shut down.”

His girlfriend, Sydney Lamb, 20, though, did some research online and learned that she and Fitka could register and vote all in the same day in Colorado. All they needed were valid state-issued IDs from any state and proof of residency, which they were both able to produce through various documents.

So, less than 45 minutes before the polls closed Tuesday, they registered and cast their ballots at the Larimer County Courthouse. Poll workers cheered for them, just as they did for every other first-time voter, as they completed their registration and picked up ballots to fill out at the voting center.

Fitka, a welder, and Lamb, who cleans houses for a living, let out a cheer of their own after turning in those ballots and walking out into the hallway, relieved that they hadn’t missed out on the chance to vote in what they both called a “crucial election.” They both said they had voted for Joe Biden for president over Donald Trump.

“We had been thinking for a while that we weren’t going to be able to and then have to live with knowing that we never voted in this election,” Lamb said. “I feel like a lot of the progression that we’ve made is starting to turn back around on itself; I’m not really proud of that. I wanted to at least do what I could, know that I put my say out there.”

— Kelly Lyell

Democrats hold commanding leads in Larimer County races

The "blue wave" that swept across Colorado in 2018 appears to have crested upon Larimer County in 2020.

Democrats Kristin Stephens and Jody Shadduck-McNally appear poised to give their party complete control of the Larimer County Commission in 2021, while fellow Democrat Gordon McLaughlin also enjoys a substantial lead over GOP district attorney hopeful Mitch Murray in early, unofficial returns.

It's a stunning twist from only two years ago, when Republicans held each seat prior to current Democratic Commissioner John Kefalas' win over interim GOP commissioner Sean Dougherty, who replaced longtime commissioner Lew Gaiter after Gaiter's death following a long fight against cancer.

—Eric Larsen

Biden, Hickenlooper win top-ballot races

John Hickenlooper has unseated Cory Gardner as Colorado's junior senator, and the state will go to Joe Biden in the presidential election, as multiple news sources have called the respective races in their favor.

The results likely aren't shocking to Colorado residents, who in 2018 saw a "blue wave" sweep as Democrats won every statewide office up for grabs.

Elsewhere in Colorado, the AP called the Congressional District 1 race for incumbent Rep. Diana DeGette.

—Eric Larsen

7 p.m. update: Polls close in Colorado

A voter arriving at the polling center at Colorado State University's Lory Student Center sprinted in the door just in front of the alarm signaling the close of polls, ensuring he would get his vote.

And with that last burst of procrastination, polls have closed across Colorado. Extremely preliminary results from the state show Joe Biden with a commanding lead over President Donald Trump, and John Hickenlooper enjoying a substantial lead over Cory Gardner in their senate race.

Coloradans beat 2016 ballot totals by 10%, casting at least 3,145,626 ballots this year, according to the Secretary of State's office 6 p.m. update. That's about 83% of active registered voters.

Larimer County's turnout as of 5 p.m. was 214,895, which is about 85% of active registered voters. County Clerk Angela Myers had expected about 90% turnout, judging by previous years' turnout.

Early results in Colorado are likely to reflect mostly early ballots, because the state allows counties to begin counting ahead of Election Day. However, there wasn't a huge discrepancy between Republicans and Democrats in early voting.

As of late Monday, there were about 240,500 ballots not yet returned from active registered Republicans and about 227,400 ballots not yet returned from active registered Democrats. There were close to 512,000 ballots not yet returned from active unaffiliated voters, who lean Democratic in Colorado.

—Eric Larsen and Jacy Marmaduke

Biden holds early lead as AP begins calling races

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has an early lead in Electoral College votes, leading President Donald Trump 85-55 as of 6:30 p.m. Mountain time. Trump had secured more of the national popular vote — 14.6 million votes to Biden's 13.7 million — but we're still a long way off from either candidate securing the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the presidency.

The Associated Press has started to call races in Eastern states where polls have closed. Visit the Coloradoan's live results page for the latest updates from across the country.

—Eric Larsen and Jacy Marmaduke

No lines, no drama at Larimer County vote centers

It's been a drama-free day at Larimer County's busiest polling centers, which are running free of wait times as of 6 p.m., one hour before polls close.

Coloradoan reporters have been at the Larimer County Courthouse and CSU Lory Student Center locations throughout the day, and only small, intermittent lines have formed. As of its 5 p.m. update, Larimer County reported a wait at only one vote center — one person waiting one minute at River of Life Fellowship Church in Wellington.

The smooth sailing in Colorado comes in stark contrast to what's happening across the nation, where states including North Carolina extended voting time due to long waits and operational issues.

—Eric Larsen

New Colorado residents enjoy ease of mail-in ballots

Dropping off her completed ballot in a collection box at Safeway on East Harmony Road was the safest way to vote during the COVID-19 pandemic, Candice Campbell said.

She moved here from Texas a year and a half ago and appreciates the ease in which Colorado voters can cast their ballots.

“I have a high-risk family member, so I’m going to do this rather than stand in a line and have to worry about what I’m touching and what I’m not touching,” she said outside the store. “Plus, it was easy for me to do it this way. I could sit there and look through all of the information. There were some things I wasn’t 100% sure of; I only moved here 1½ years ago.”

Campbell, 48, has five children ages 9-20 and wanted to make sure they knew how important it was to vote. Particularly her four daughters.

“I want those girls to know that I voted today,” she said. “I feel like 100 years ago we (women) couldn’t vote, so that’s important to me.”

By late afternoon, poll workers Art Lizotte, Rebecca Finkle and Dave Leather, a Republican, unaffiliated and Democrat, respectively, had seen about 750 people, the slowest day they've had since the Safeway at Harmony drop-off site opened.

"It's been really steady," Finkle said, but not huge waves of voters dropping off ballots. Still, they were on their third roll of "I Voted" stickers. Each roll has 1,000 stickers.

— Kelly Lyell and Pat Ferrier

Larimer County voters seek to be counted, hope for unity

Cali Richards, 29, just moved to Colorado from Oregon. “If I didn’t vote, I would feel like I didn’t do my part” for democracy, she said, dropping her ballot at Safeway along with a friend. “The whole premise is to make sure you count.

“My grandmother was part of a generation that didn’t get to vote,” she said. “It’s extremely important that I have the right to vote as a Black woman. A hundred years ago I would not have been able to vote. I don’t want to take that for granted.”

Luke Staples said he hadn’t voted in years. On Tuesday, he brought his young children, Isaac and Lydia, to Safeway on East Harmony Road to drop his ballot.

He said he voted because of the lack of leadership and division in the country today. “I hope there’s more unity and a new beginning,” he said. “I hope we can recognize what the problems are and try to have solutions.”

Of nearly two dozen people interviewed at Safeway on Drake and on East Harmony, none had major concerns about ballot safety.

“Colorado has been doing this for so many elections, we’ve got it down. I have great confidence. It is so easy to drop off," Staples said.

— Pat Ferrier

Colorado ballot issues on national popular vote, abortion bring out voters

By 2:10 p.m. more than 300 people had dropped off their ballots at the Safeway at Drake and Taft Hill roads.

Miya Giffin, 22, a Colorado State University student who moved to Fort Collins from Arizona, said she was particularly concerned about Proposition 115 that would restrict access to abortions after 22 weeks of pregnancy.

“I don’t think people who aren’t women should have a say,” she said after dropping her ballot at Safeway. “Most people deciding this stuff are either very conservative or older white men. That’s highly problematic.”

This is Giffin’s second presidential election. She also had strong feelings about Proposition 113, which would have Colorado join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact to ensure the presidential candidate who wins the most votes nationwide is elected president.

Giffin said she didn’t learn about the Electoral College in high school and was shocked in 2016 when Hillary Clinton won the popular vote but Donald Trump won the Electoral College and the White House.

States that join the agreement commit all of their state’s electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes nationwide once the agreement becomes binding.

If Colorado approves the proposition, it would be the 15th state in the compact, bringing the number of committee electoral votes to 196, short of the 270 needed.

It’s a contradiction when people “tell you your vote matters but it’s older white men who really decide,” she said. “Something needs to change.”

— Pat Ferrier

More than 212,000 voters have cast ballots so far in Larimer County

About 84% of active registered voters in Larimer County had returned their ballots as of 3 p.m. Tuesday, or 212,825, to be precise.

Statewide, by noon Tuesday, just over 3 million ballots had been cast, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold posted on Twitter. The office's midday update Tuesday showed turnout of about 77% of active voters. Active voters include all registered voters who got ballots in the mail. In 2016, total turnout was 87% of active registered voters.

— Jacy Marmaduke and Rebecca Powell

Election Day voting smooth at Larimer County courthouse

Larimer County might break voter turnout records in 2020, but you wouldn’t know it from walking through the county courthouse polling center on Election Day.

At about 1 p.m., a slow but steady stream of voters filtered in and out of the room typically used for county board meetings. Masked, blue-aproned poll workers assisted voters at booths lined with shower curtains, as another worker roamed the room spraying voter booths with disinfectant and dropping little blue vase fillers on each cleaned station.

“Welcome to 2020,” polling place supervisor Steve Poehlman said, noting that poll workers pretty much have COVID-19 safety down pat by now. “Only in a year of a pandemic would we have three major elections.”

Poehlman said there hadn’t been a line all day, although he thought there could be a slight wait after 5 p.m. when people got off work. The polls close at 7 p.m.

There was more activity outside the courthouse, beyond the 100-foot required buffer for electioneering activities, where a table full of people gathered signatures for the “Recall Polis” campaign. They said the group has been out there since Monday and is getting a good amount of signatures for the statewide petition effort.

Monique Sullivan, a member of the Recall Polis group, said she supports the effort because she disagreed with Polis’ decision this summer to allow online petition-gathering — later overturned by the Colorado Supreme Court — and the way he distributed CARES Act funding, which she said should’ve gone through the Colorado General Assembly for distribution to businesses. Another woman gathering signatures, Pam Plessinger, decried the restrictive practices at nursing homes meant to prevent spread of COVID-19 among vulnerable populations.

Sullivan and her 23-year-old daughter voted in person together this year. She said she cast her vote in the presidential race “to save America.”

“I want it to be the place it was when I was growing up for my kids, where people are kind to each other and not burning down buildings, and when you don’t get your way you have violence,” Sullivan said. “That’s not how I raised my kids.”

Plessinger said she voted “red all the way” because she sees Democratic candidates as lacking honesty and integrity.

Yards away from the Recall Polis table stood another man, holding a sign that said “Polis won, get over it.” As cars passed by, he yelled “Elections have consequences. Practice what you preach.”

Back inside the polling place, the only sign of political differences were the blue, red and black lanyards that poll workers wore to denote their party affiliation. Supervisor Kristi Poulsen said the lanyards are meant to promote transparency and bipartisanship. Each worker sat beside workers with different-colored lanyards. The county practices the same rule during ballot-counting.

“We’ve been in here for two weeks and two days, so we are an election family,” Poulsen said. “We get to know each other, and some of us end up being friends after. It doesn’t matter that we are (different parties) – we just get along with each other. This is what we wish for the whole country.”

— Jacy Marmaduke

In a hurry to get rid of your election signs?

The city of Fort Collins has some tips for dealing with election signs once Election Day is over. Most election signs are not recyclable and should not be put in curbside recycling bins. The proper way to dispose of a sign depends on the material:

  •  Signs made of corrugated plastic should be thrown away in the trash.
  • Plastic sleeve-style signs (made of stretchy plastic material like grocery bags) can be recycled as plastic film at the city’s Timberline Recycling Center, 1903 S. Timberline Road.
  • Election signs made of cardboard or paperboard can be recycled in curbside recycling bins or at recycling drop-off locations after removing metal wickets. 
  • Metal sign wickets on all types of signs can be recycled as scrap metal at local scrap metal dealers or taken to the Timberline Recycling Center Hard-to-Recycle Materials Yard ($5 entry fee applies.)

— Kevin Duggan

Voters at Colorado State University express anxiety about election

Colorado State University’s polling location had a steady stream of voters throughout the afternoon Tuesday, but poll workers said they hadn’t seen a measurable line all morning.

Costumed volunteers, donning rainbow tutus, colorful headbands and umbrella hats, escorted voters up to the third floor of the Lory Student Center.

Many voting at Colorado State University showed up in pairs or groups, some all voting together and others waiting outside for “moral support.”

Cade and Haley, who only wanted to be identified by their first names, said they had mixed feeling about the election as they left the polls at Colorado State University on Tuesday afternoon.

“Regardless of what happens, s--- is going to hit the fan,” Haley said.

Cade agreed and said they were both feeling pretty scared about the election overall. But with all the issues this country has, Cade said taking advantage of the right to vote is extremely important.

“Voting is important regardless of what happens,” Haley said.

Kelsey Gessner, a first-year CSU student, voted in her first presidential election Tuesday. She said growing up, her mother instilled in her the importance of voting and she felt like this election “was a pretty big one.”

Gessner said voting “not Trump” was her primary motivator for voting this year.

“He doesn’t have values that align with mine,” Gessner said.

With at a lot at stake in this election, Gessner said she felt very nervous leaving the polls.

— Sady Swanson

COVID-19 changes — or cancels — election watch parties in Larimer County

The COVID-19 pandemic was one of the major issues defining the 2020 election, but it also defined how candidates and their supporters marked the end of an arduous election season.

Due to social distancing requirements aimed at slowing the spread of COVID, the Republican and Democratic parties of Larimer County did not plan to host their usual election night gatherings for the party faithful to track election results as they come in from across the country, state and county.

With the exception of Republican candidate for Larimer County commissioner Ben Aste, who threw a party at a downtown Loveland venue, candidates got together with family members and a few friends in their homes to track results. Others had parties with supporters over Zoom or some other video platform. All were glued to screens hoping for good news.

In that way, Election Night was like it always was. But it certainly wasn’t the same.

— Kevin Duggan

Hickenlooper: 'Now is not the time where we take our foot off the gas'

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Hickenlooper, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and a crew of Colorado Democratic leaders urged Coloradans to drop off their ballots and shore up Democratic victories in a get-out-the-vote virtual press conference organized by Joe Biden’s presidential campaign Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile, the Trump campaign pledged in a Tuesday morning news release that Colorado will “deliver 9 electoral votes for President Trump” and announced campaign staff had made over 9 million voter contacts here.

Hickenlooper invoked devastating Northern Colorado wildfires, climbing COVID-19 cases and continued economic distress as he made the case for a Biden presidency and the end of Sen. Cory Gardner’s Senate tenure.

“Cory Gardner has failed to do his job, but if we do ours and we get out that vote today, we’ll show him the door,” Hickenlooper said. “We’ll take back the Senate, and we’ll be able to make progress on these critical issues and so much more. Now is not the time where we take our foot off the gas.”

Gardner plans to make remarks via a Facebook live stream later Tuesday.

Polis and other Democrats implored Coloradans to text friends and family members who haven’t voted yet and talk to their neighbors or neighbor’s neighbors. Polis said the reward for that work will come “in January, (when) we’ll be able to say with pride, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.”

“The stakes are so high in this election, and it’s likely to be extremely close,” Polis said. “You don’t want to look back next week, into the next four years, and say, ‘If only I’d shown up.’”

The speakers also praised Colorado’s high voter turnout so far. The state, as of 10 a.m., has already outpaced 2016 turnout, which ranked among the top 5 states in the nation, according to the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office.

“Listen, I thought we were going to be on this call helping to convince more Democrats and young people and black folks and brown folks to get out and vote,” said State Rep. Leslie Herod of Denver. “And guess what? I was wrong. Folks have already been voting in droves. ... We are going to have one of the highest voter turnouts in Colorado, I guarantee it, and in the nation.”

How long is the wait to vote in Larimer County?

As of 9 a.m. Tuesday, there is no waiting at Larimer County Voter Service and Polling Centers.

Residents can go to VSPCs to register to vote, vote in person, get a new ballot or drop off a ballot. There are several centers in Fort Collins, Loveland, Berthoud, Estes Park, Laporte and Wellington.

The Larimer County Clerk and Recorder's Office tracks wait times here.

Larimer County clerk expects 90% turnout

Larimer County Clerk Angela Myers expects a rush of last-minute voting Tuesday.

As of 4 p.m. Monday, voters had returned about 189,900 ballots. Myers is expecting 90% of active registered voters will return ballots, which would mean roughly another 36,700 ballots will come in today.

“It’s going to be brisk,” Myers said, adding that last-minute voters should consider submitting their ballots at a drop box other than the one at the Larimer County Courthouse, if possible, because that one is expected to be the busiest on Election Day.

Myers said Monday night that she expected many, but not all, early votes would be counted by Election Day. County staff started tallying votes Oct. 21.

If the county receives more than 20,000 votes on Tuesday, which is highly likely, counting will continue past Election Day. That is typical in Larimer County and the rest of Colorado.

- Jacy Marmaduke

Unaffiliated voters in Colorado have the most unreturned ballots

Statewide turnout as of Monday afternoon gives a preview of how initial results may vary from final totals.

Because ballot-counting starts early in Colorado, the first round of results will disproportionately include early votes. Results released later in the evening and beyond will include more of the votes cast on Election Day.

Colorado's early voting discrepancies by party aren't as severe as what some other states are seeing, but Democrats have been slightly more likely than Republicans to vote early here.

Unaffiliated voters, who lean Democratic in Colorado, represent the largest chunk of active registered voters who haven't cast ballots yet. If you compare registered Republicans with registered Democrats, a slightly larger number of registered Republicans hadn't yet returned ballots as of 4 p.m. Monday. 

Statewide turnout sat at 2,765,244 ballots as of 4 p.m. Monday, representing about 73% of active voters. Active voters include all registered voters who got ballots in the mail. In 2016, total turnout was 87% of active registered voters.

- Jacy Marmaduke