Friday, January 17, 2020

The Party is Over. Unaffiliated Voters Dominate.

As the election of the century approaches, more than two-fifths of Colorado voters chose no party affiliation. And, for a variety of factors, that number is expected to grow.

Unaffiliated voters have been voting on the left in the last couple of elections, but Democrats will have to be careful. These new non-party participants – and they participate at historical rates – don’t like parties or the party establishments and can be quickly attracted by new candidates, issues and looks, much like new Hollywood seasons where the content and the way it’s delivered can doom or reward a show, a studio and a network.

The Colorado two-party system is at risk. Republicans are fighting for their relevance, even their basic competitiveness in counties they dominated as recently as a decade ago. But, Democrats haven’t gained loyal fans, and bad choices in nominees could upend all the rosy 2020 and beyond prognostications.

As the data below shows, Democrats, as a percentage of registration, has been stable for the last 15 years while the voter rolls have surged by a million voters. Republicans, who were in the lead in 2004 by nearly 200,000 voters (Bill Owens was governor and G.W. Bush reelected as president), are now a distinct minority and in danger of losing their top officeholder, Cory Gardner.

And, the number and influences of unaffiliated voters will increase, not diminish.

  • Unaffiliated voters are now able to vote in primaries, and voted in large numbers in the 2018 gubernatorial primary, their first opportunity. They are increasing as a percentage of the electorate and were a significant bloc of voters in the 2019 off-year election.
  • Voters are being registered automatically as unaffiliated at motor vehicle offices and then asked later by mail if they want to join a party.
  • More than half of new local voters and out-of-state transferees, especially the young, have registered unaffiliated. Colorado’s growth adds unaffiliated voters.

Read Colorado Politics: GOP the loser in voter registration – “unaffiliated” the big winner

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