From the Statehouse

Ballot returns inch up to 33 percent

Updated Nov. 5 – Almost exactly a third of the 3.09 million ballots sent to Colorado voters this election had been returned as of Election Day morning.

Chart of ballots cast
Ballots cast in largest counties as of Nov. 5, 9:30 a.m.
The Department of State reported that 1,030,487 ballots had been returned. That includes 412,369 cast by Republican registered voters, 328,707 by Democrats and 280,421 by unaffiliated voters.

The number of ballots returned indicates that more than 400,000 additional ballots will have to hit county clerks’ offices before 7 p.m. if turnout is to reach the 50 percent seen in 2011.

Denver, heavily Democratic and the county with the largest number of active voters, had reached a 26 percent return rate. Douglas, a key Republican-leaning county, was at 44 percent of ballots return, and other large GOP counties like El Paso, Weld and Mesa was above 30 percent. The only large Democratic-leaning counties with more than 30 percent of ballots returned were Boulder and Pueblo.

A low turnout, particularly in Democratic counties, could be worrisome for Amendment 66 backers, given the widely cited view that the campaign needs to draw voters who don’t normally vote in off-year elections in order to pass the $950 million state income tax increase.

Just over a quarter of ballots had been cast as of Monday morning.

Veteran campaign consultant Katy Atkinson said Monday the turnout “sounds about average” for an off-year election and that while A66 backers probably are “hoping for a high turnout, it’s not necessarily bad news for them either.”

Atkinson said, “All or most Democrats are probably yes votes” but that it’s “just about impossible to predict how Republicans will be voting,” adding that A66 likely will have some support from Republicans and unaffiliated voters.

“The big question is how big a chunk” that will be, Atkinson said. “My sense is that this is going to be close.”

Another experienced consultant, Lynea Hansen, thinks the Republican-Democratic gap will narrow by 7 p.m. Tuesday. “We have a tradition of Democrats voting on Election Day,” she said, even in an all-mail election.

She noted there was significant Democratic turnout on Election Day in 2011, which also was largely all-mail. “I definitely think Amendment 66 is going to come down to the wire,” and the result will depend on whether the pro-66 campaign gets its supporters to vote.

Consultant Eric Sondemann said the number of ballots returned “strikes me as a very modest turnout.” He agreed that more Democrats than Republicans vote on Election Day but that “There’s going to have to be a hell of a surge tomorrow” for Democrats to close the gap.

Backers of A66 made a last in-person push on Saturday as about 740 paid and volunteer canvassers went door-to-door in 11 communities around the state.

Campaign rally
Mayor Michael Hancock spoke to A66 supporters Saturday in Denver. (Photo courtesy Colorado Committs to Kids)

High-profile Democratic politicians turned at A66 rallies. “Every minute counts, every step counts and every door knocked counties,” Gov. John Hickenlooper told canvassers after they returned from working in Aurora.

Mayor Michael Hancock rallied volunteers in Denver, and Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia spoke to Fort Collins canvassers.

A panel of experts did a “pre-mortem” on A66 during a discussion sponsored by the Buechner Institute of Governance at the University of Colorado Denver.

“I do think it will be close,” said Norma Anderson, a former Republican legislative leader from Jefferson County. Anderson, who opposes A66, noted, “The one thing about the people in Colorado, they don’t like a raise in taxes.”

Andrew Freedman, A66 campaign manager, predicted the measure will pass and cautioned, “Don’t read too much” into early ballot returns. (About 23 percent of ballots had been returned as of Friday morning.)

“There’s a lot of turnout game to be played,” said Hansen, who also was on the panel. “Democrats don’t turn their ballots in until later in the game.”

Hansen also noted that turnout may be affected by other political controversies that have been in the news, including gun control, marijuana taxes and civil unions. “All of this frames the debate. Such distractions won’t necessarily change voters’ minds about A66, but “It’s changing who’s voting” and will affect turnout.

Panel members also were coaxed into “what if” speculation by moderator Paul Teske.

“If it fails you’re not going to pass another tax increase unless it’s a minor one,” predicted Anderson.

“If it doesn’t pass we have to make another stab at finding the right solution,” said Hansen, who personally supports A66.

Kelly Brough, CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, said, “We can’t use 66 [losing] as an excuse to not do the things we know that we fundamentally need to be doing” in education reform. (The chamber has supported A66’s accompanying legislation, Senate Bill 13-213, but remained neutral on the amendment.)

awarding leaders

Meet the nine finalists for Tennessee Principal of the Year

PHOTO: Shelby County Schools
From left: Docia Generette-Walker receives Tennessee's 2016 principal of the year honor from Education Commissioner Candice McQueen. Generette-Walker leads Middle College High School in Memphis. This year's winner will be announced in October.

Nine school leaders are up for an annual statewide award, including one principal from Memphis.

Tracie Thomas, a principal at White Station Elementary School, represents schools in Shelby County on the state’s list of finalists. Last year, Principal Docia Generette-Walker of Middle College High School in Memphis received the honor.

Building better principals has been a recent focus for Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen as roles of the school leaders change under school improvement efforts.

“Successful schools begin with great leaders, and these nine finalists represent some of the best in our state,” McQueen said. “The Principal of the Year finalists have each proven what is possible when school leaders hold students and educators to high expectations.”

The winner will be announced at the state department’s annual banquet in October, where the winner of Tennessee’s Teacher of the Year will also be announced.

The finalists are:

West Tennessee

  • Tracie Thomas, White Station Elementary, Shelby County Schools
  • Stephanie Coffman, South Haven Elementary, Henderson County School District
  • Linda DeBerry, Dyersburg City Primary School, Dyersburg City Schools

Middle Tennessee

  • Kenneth “Cam” MacLean, Portland West Middle School, Sumner County Schools
  • John Bush, Marshall County High School, Marshall County Schools
  • Donnie Holman, Rickman Elementary School, Overton County Schools

East Tennessee

  • Robin Copp, Ooltewah High School, Hamilton County Schools
  • Jeff Harshbarger, Norris Middle School, Anderson County Schools
  • Carol McGill, Fairmont Elementary School, Johnson City Schools

you better work

Hickenlooper, on national TV, calls for bipartisanship on job training for high school graduates

PHOTO: Nicholas Garcia
Gov. John Hickenlooper spoke to reporters on the eve of the 2017 General Assembly.

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Sunday said Republicans and Democrats should work together to rethink how states are preparing high school graduates for the 21st century economy.

“It’s not a Republican or Democratic issue to say we want better jobs for our kids, or we want to make sure they’re trained for the new generation of jobs that are coming or beginning to appear,” he said on CBS’s Face the Nation.

Hickenlooper, a Democrat, appeared on the Sunday public affairs program alongside Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, to discuss their work on healthcare.

The Colorado governor brought up workforce training after moderator John Dickerson asked what issues besides healthcare both parties should be addressing.

“Two-thirds of our kids are never going to have a four-year college degree, and we really haven’t been able to prepare them to involve them in the economy where the new generations of jobs require some technical capability,” Hickenlooper said. “We need to look at apprenticeships. We need to look at all kinds of internships.”

Hickenlooper has long supported a variety of education reform policies including charter schools and linking student test scores to teacher evaluations. Last fall he backed a new program that is expected to this year connect 250 Colorado high school students with paid job training.

Watch Hickenlooper and Kasich here. Hickenlooper’s remarks on job training begin right before the 11- minute mark.