By Shaun Boyd

DENVER (CBS4) – More than 160,000 unaffiliated voters have cast ballots in the first primary election in Colorado to allow non-partisans to participate.

CBS4’s Shaun Boyd interviews Papa Dia. (credit: CBS)

Among those making history is Papa Dia of Aurora. The founder of the African Leadership Group, Dia is politically active, but like many in his community, he’s unaffiliated. This is his first primary.

“To have a say and to have a seat at the table and to be part of the conversation and part of the process. The one thing we strongly believe in the African American community is if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu,” he said.

(credit: CBS)

Unaffiliated voters represent 23 percent of those who’ve cast ballots so far. Of those tallied, 49 percent voted the Democratic ballot, and 33 percent cast the Republican ballot.

But Secretary of State Wayne Williams says don’t read too much into that.

Secretary of State Wayne Williams (credit: CBS)

“You are free to return one party’s ballot in this election and then two years from now in the presidential primary, you can vote in a different party’s primary. That’s the benefit of being unaffiliated under Colorado law,” Williams said.

What you can’t do is vote both ballots or neither will count. Williams office launched a public education campaign and he says most voters got the message.

(credit: CBS)

“We see somewhere in the range of 95 percent plus following those instructions,” he said.

Fears of partisan voters becoming unaffiliated to influence the other party’s primary, Williams says, were unfounded.

“You don’t see a lot of switching back and forth. The majority of Coloradans who had an affiliation have kept that,” he said.

While partisans still make up the majority of primary voters, Dia says don’t discount the unaffiliated voters.

A drive-up ballot drop-off site in Denver (credit: CBS)

“I strongly believe that we will be the difference maker. The unaffiliated registered voter will make a difference.”

In addition to unaffiliated voters, another historic factor in this election is the money. The candidates and their super PACS have spent more than $30 million.

Voter turn-out was at 21 percent as of Monday morning. Voters have until 7 p.m. Tuesday night to get their ballots in. They must be dropped-off in-person now. It is too late to mail them.

Shaun Boyd is CBS4’s political specialist. She’s a veteran reporter with more than 25 years of experience. Follow her on Twitter @cbs4shaun.

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