22 September 2008

Ballot Counting Prediction

I predict that Colorado's unofficial ballot counting from the November 4, 2008 eletion will not be done any sooner than the afternoon of November 7, 2008, mostly due to delay in counting the vote in Denver. Colorado may be one of the last jurisdictions in the nation to provide results, and since it could be a swing state, could leave the rest of the country waiting.


The unofficial count for the primary election (admitted done using only partial ballot counting resources) took until 1 a.m. the next day. In this election, the ballot was short, a large proportion of voters voted by mail which can be counted in advance, turnout overall and in particular on election day was very low, and voter error rates were probably low.

While the vote counting capacity will be about 50% higher (or maybe as much as 100% more) on election day on November 4, 2008, numerous challenges will arise. The ballot will be much longer and vote counting speed is more closely related to how many pages of ballots much be counted, than how many ballots must be counted. Turnout is always highest in general election years, and Obama related enthusiasm and voter registration efforts are likely to make turnout particularly high in Denver. The mail in ballot percentage will be lower in Denver than it was in the primary. And, voter error requiring laborious hand counts will be higher than in the primary in an election where many voters are first time voters and the voting methods have changed since the last general election.

Given the fact that Denver leans Democratic, and that Denver is large enough to decisively influence statewide totals, Colorado returns will not be possible in the Presidential, U.S. Senate or ballot issue races without Denver numbers.

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