DENVER (CBS4) – First-time voter Mateo MacDonald almost fell for the talk about depressed turnout in a midterm election.
“I definitely didn’t think I’d come out and vote, in all honesty, having politics shoved down your throat. Every source of media had deterred me,” MacDonald, a 19-year-old Denver resident, said.
But his interest in Amendment 67 — the so-called “personhood” amendment — prompted him to register to vote on Tuesday afternoon shortly before casting his first ballot.
“I figured I might as well voice my opinion and be a part of it,” he said.
MacDonald voted at a church at 7th Avenue and Colorado Boulevard in one of Denver’s VSPCs — voter service and polling centers — that allow residents from anywhere in the county to vote on site or hand in a mail ballot.
Turnout was brisk at the center. Shortly before 2 p.m., voters lined up out the door with queues reaching as many as 20 at one point.
“It’s just been relentless,” Eileen O’Brien, the election supervisor at that VSPC, said. “We’ve had lines pretty much through the door.”
She said six voters had already showed up before 7 a.m., when the center opened; voting at her location was “non-stop,” she said.
And those were residents wanting to either register or use voting machines. Motorists also snaked through the church’s parking lot simultaneously, sometimes five or six at a time, to drop their ballots off to two election judges.
PHOTO GALLERY: Election Day In Colorado
Through Tuesday morning, Colorado’s secretary of state’s office said 1,607,220 voters had turned in mail-in ballots, with registered Republicans leading Democrats, 636,223 to 519,225. Colorado law mandates that all registered voters receive ballots in the mail; it also allows for same-day registration. Roughly 50 percent of registered voters had voted by Tuesday.
At a voting center at Aurora’s city hall, deputy city clerk Karen Goldman said voting was also lively. There were no lines at 2:30 p.m., but election workers at two large tables were busy helping residents either register or prepare to vote on a machine.
“It’s very encouraging to see people walk in. It’s very exciting to see people register to vote for the very first time. People really do seem to be engaged,” Goldman said.
Lines on Tuesday were, at most, four voters deep. “It’s been very, very steady. Not overwhelming,” Goldman said. She said she expected to see motorists lining up at the drive-thru starting around 5 p.m.
The voting center is new for Aurora. Arapahoe County, working with the city, set it up for three days. Outside, the county offered a 24/7 permanent mail-ballot drop-off box. Two election judges were also working the drive-thru drop-off location.
“People love it. It’s very popular,” Goldman said.
Theresa Battle, Aurora resident and first-time voter, said Tuesday’s election wasn’t her first opportunity to vote. But she said her opposition to Amendment 67 and her support of Amendment 105 — which would require that some foods made with GMOs be labeled — spurred her to vote.
“It really was these two amendments that got me going,” Battle, 19, said.
She said the importance of local and state issues trumped any presidential election for her.
That there were no presidential candidates on the ballot made O’Brien, the supervisor in Denver County, believe in-person voting would be light, at least at her center. The days leading up to Tuesday were quiet, she said. From Oct. 20 through the weekend, 237 voters cast ballots inside and 2,023 turned in ballots at the drive-thru and drop-off box.
“We’ll easily do that many today,” she said in the early afternoon. “We may have already hit that.”
Starting Monday, the red metal ballot boxes outside the voting center — they hold upward of 300 ballots — filled up before election officials collected them. Sometimes, officials picked up four full boxes with each run, more than twice as many as they had a week earlier.
Tom Taylor, one of two election judges manning the drive-thru at the Colorado Boulevard location in Denver, said that since he started working at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, cars were showing up regularly.
“It’s a good turnout,” he said. “It shows me that people are interested in what’s going on in the political arena, and they’re making an effort, and they’re getting out and voting.”
Another voter in Denver, A.J. Walsh, said voters shouldn’t ignore midterm elections because, despite not boasting the draw of the high-profile presidential race, there are many important local and state issues.
“I think local elections mean more than presidential elections because it does have a more direct effect,” he said. “(A local election) is a lot more boring, but it does have more relevance. It’s local politics. Those are things that affect us.”
– Written by Tim Skillern for CBSDenver.com.