Magic Mushrooms Denver Votes

Voters fill out their ballots at the Denver Elections Division on Tuesday, May 7, 2019. 

Nearly 24% of the registered voters in Denver had turned in their mail-ballots by late Monday afternoon as a competitive mayoral runoff campaign and several other races drew to a close before Tuesday’s 7 p.m. voting deadline.

But Alton Dillard, a spokesman for the Denver Elections Division, cautioned that Denver voters are well-known for casting their vote on the last possible day.

“This isn’t LOW turnout, it’s DENVER Turnout,” Dillard quipped in an email.

That point was on dramatic display in the May 7 general election.

On the morning of May 6, the day before that vote, the number of ballots turned in stood at about 18% of the registered voters, well below the average of 30% for a spring municipal election.

However, that figure zoomed upward as voters flocked to the polls. By the time all the votes were counted, the turnout topped out at 40%, well above the average.

Some of that late voting in the general election may have been propelled by controversy over Initiative 300 -- a measure that sought to repeal Denver urban camping ban and assert the right of the homeless to sleep on public property or in their cars. That referendum was soundly rejected by 82% of the voters.

Another initiative that may have contributed to the higher-than-usual turnout was Initiative 301, which sought to decriminalize possession of a psilocybin mushrooms. That measure squeaked by with just over 2,000 votes – most of them coming in a surge of late voting.

Late voting was so prevalent in that election that nearly 41% of all ballots were cast in the election's final day.

Whether that kind of turnout happens again in Tuesday’s election is an open question.

The only referendum this time around is Initiative 302, which would give Denver voters the right to approve any city funds being spend to pursue a bid for the Winter Olympics. That ballot question has not generated the level of debate as the two prior initiatives in the general election.

However, there are other runoff elections for five of the city council seats as well as a citywide runoff for the clerk and recorder’s office.

And the top draw for this election will be the mayoral runoff in which incumbent Michael Hancock is seeking a third-term against urban planner Jamie Giellis.

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