GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - Interest in last week's election in Garfield County far surpassed that of the past three elections in terms of local voter turnout, according to County Clerk Jean Alberico.
As of the unofficial final results from the Nov. 6 election in Garfield County issued last week, voter turnout in the county stood at 93 percent. And more than 500 provisional ballots still need to be reviewed and counted before the Nov. 23 deadline to file the local results with the Colorado Secretary of State.
Out of 26,042 active registered voters in the county, 24,172 voters cast ballots in the election, according to Alberico.
The turnout was similar in neighboring Pitkin, Eagle and Rio Blanco counties, which all reported voter turnout exceeding 93 percent as well.
Even if the approximately 9,200 additional "inactive" voters who are still listed as registered in Garfield County are included, voter turnout surpassed 68 percent.
"All of the counties in Colorado have agreed to base their turnout off of the active registered voter list," Alberico said. Active voters are those that participated in the mid-term 2010 general election.
By comparison, 76 percent of the active registered Garfield County voters turned out for the 2010 elections, and 88 percent in the 2008 election when Barack Obama was first elected. The 2006 mid-term election saw just 63 percent of active voters in the county turn out.
"It is one of the biggest turnouts we've had for a long, long time," Alberico said of last week's election. "I believe it was a combination of the presidential election, and that there was a great deal of interest in Amendment 64."
Statewide, voters approved the measure legalizing the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana by persons age 21 and older, and eventually regulating its production, sale and taxation similar to alcohol.
A look at the election results from Garfield County show that Amendment 64 garnered the second most votes cast of any other ballot question or race, 23,532.
Garfield County voters approved Amendment 64 with 13,362 in favor to 10,170 against, or 57 percent to 43 percent. Statewide, the measure passed with 55 percent of the vote.
Topping the number of ballots cast in Garfield County was the presidential race, with 23,985 votes.
Although President Barack Obama won the state as a whole, Republican Mitt Romney took Garfield County, with 12,324 votes to 11,106, or 51 percent to 46 percent. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson pulled in a little more than 1 percent of the Garfield County vote.
Alberico said the county's voter registration rolls swelled from about 22,000 earlier in the summer to more than 26,000 by Election Day.
She said the clerk's office sent out mailings to inactive registered voters at the beginning of the year, prior to the June primary elections, and again just before the early October voter registration deadline reminding people to update their voter information.
"We got pretty decent response from those," Alberico said. "We also had people moving into the county who registered."
Plus, there were numerous previously inactive voters who didn't receive a mail-in ballot and requested one, or who showed up on Election Day.
"All of those voters are now reactivated," Alberico said.
Garfield County Republican Party Chairman Dave Merritt said he was happy with the turnout in the county.
"I'm pleased with the fact that we got the large turnout," he said. "We didn't leave a lot of potential votes on the table."
Merritt noted that there was a concerted effort by both Republicans and Democrats to register voters in advance of the election, and to get out the vote during the election.
Unlike some of the voter registration drives sponsored by the local Democratic Party and other groups at festivals and through door-to-door registration, the local Republican effort was not as extensive, Merritt said.
"That can get a little confusing for people, and there's too much possibility for problems," he said.
"We didn't go out targeting any particular group, but we did assist folks as much as possible and let them know they could come to our office (Republican headquarters in Glenwood Springs) to register," Merritt said.
"We also made a lot of calls making sure people had filled out their ballots," he said.
Garfield County Democratic Party Chairman Jack Real was not available for comment Monday.
According to the Secretary of State's Office, out of approximately 3.6 million registered voters statewide, including those on the inactive rolls, nearly 2.5 million voters cast ballots, for a turnout of 68 percent.