Change in registrations may have tipped election
Margin in close race was smaller than number of new affiliations
Director of Elections Judd Choate pays a visit to the Elbert County Election Department on June 20. Over the past four years Choate has visited all 64 counties to observe how counties handle their vote-counting process.
Unofficial results from the June 28 Republican primary election show that Grant Thayer narrowly defeated former Elbert County Republican Party Central Committee Chair Scott Wills in the race for Elbert County commissioner by 97 votes, or by 2.34 percentage points.
Thayer's District III primary victory may have been made possible by unaffiliated voters and a small number of Democrats who changed their party affiliation to Republican in the months leading up to the June 28 primary.
According to Colorado election rules, anyone previously affiliated with a political party who changed their affiliation by May 27 was eligible to vote in their new party's primary on June 28. Unaffiliated voters were permitted to join any party and vote in the primary up to and including the day of the election.
“It is part of the dynamic of our registration process,” said Tom Peterson, chair of the Elbert County Republican Party Central Committee.
Peterson said that rules regarding party affiliation are made at the state level, and there is no restriction or limitation that counties can make.
“I'm not aware of any activities or effort at the state level to change it,” Peterson said.
According to a countywide Change of Parties Report run by the Elbert County Election Department, 279 voters changed their affiliation to the Republican Party between March 1 and May 31 (June data not available).
The 2016 numbers are significantly higher than the previous two years. During the same three months of 2014, 101 voters joined the ranks of the Republican Party, and in 2015, 71 voters affiliated.
On June 28, Elbert County News conducted an unofficial survey of a sample of the 146 unaffiliated voters and Democrats who changed their party affiliation to Republican during May 2016. The 15 survey participants consisted of four former Democrats and 11 former unaffiliated voters.
Of those surveyed, 40 percent did not vote in the primary. The 60 percent who did vote in the primary cast ballots favoring Colorado House District 64 incumbent Tim Dore (55.5 percent), District 1 commissioner candidate James Whistler (62.5 percent), and District III commissioner Grant Thayer (55.5 percent).
The subgroup of former Democrats surveyed in the sample unanimously supported Dore, Whistler and Thayer.
Jill Duvall, chair of the Elbert County Democratic Party, said there was no official program from state or county Democrats encouraging party members to temporarily change parties for the primary.
During the window between the Democratic county caucus on March 1 and the May 27 deadline, 13 Elbert County Democrats among the 279 voters who changed party affiliation to Republican. During the same period in 2014, three Democrats affiliated as Republicans and seven in 2015.
Though the sample of voters examined only draws from the month of May, extrapolating the results for the 279 voters who changed party affiliation to Republican between March 1 and May 30 suggests that the surge in new Republicans might have tipped the balance in favor of Thayer.
Elbert County Republican Party,
Elbert County ,
Elbert County Democratic Party