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Colorado’s sleeping giant: the unaffiliated voter

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As Colorado Politics reported Wednesday, a new Floyd Ciruli poll sponsored by our parent organization, The Gazette in Colorado Springs, finds overwhelming support in El Paso County for a Nov. 8 ballot issue that would resurrect Colorado’s presidential primary—and, for the first time ever, let Colorado’s 1.3 million unaffiliated voters cast ballots in it.

As also noted in our report, former state GOP chair Ryan Call believes that ballot proposal, Proposition 107, along with companion Proposition 108 (it opens primaries for all other partisan elective offices to unaffiliated voters), spell doom over the long haul for two-party politics in Colorado. Call predicts if both measures pass, at least half of all the state’s voters will be registered unaffiliated within six to eight years. After all, why bother to affiliate with a party when you get the party favors—helping pick its candidates—for free?

Of course, fully a third of the state’s voters are already unaffiliated; the relative decline of the two major political parties in fact has been a long-term trend in Colorado. It’s no doubt a key factor driving our swing-state status, which reliably produces plenty of heartburn at Republican and Democratic party headquarters. The trend line is quite startling and, for the two parties, sobering, as we were reminded recently by a Colorado Capitol Watch blog post that quantified the state’s shifting political sands:

Here are the facts.  September 1 Registered Voter numbers for Democrats:  1,166, 819; for Republicans:  1,147,424; and for Unaffiliateds:  1,337,145.  October 1 Registered Voters voter numbers for Democrats:  1,177,863; for Republicans:  1,154,370; for Unaffiliateds:  1,359,553.

Between September 1 and October 1, Democrats increased their voter list by 11,044, Republicans increased their list by 6,916, and Unaffiliateds increased their list by 22,408.

And what’s the profile of these political free agents? Again, the answer doesn’t bode well for either major party, says Colorado Capitol Watch:

Even scarier for the parties is the age distribution.  As of October, Unaffiliateds have more than twice the number of registered voters in the 18-25 age range as Republicans and about a third more registered voters in that range than Democrats.

No wonder folks like Ryan Call are so worried.

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