There are now more registered Democratic voters in Colorado than Republicans for the first time in two decades, according to new data from the Secretary of State’s office.
But there’s some context to go along with these numbers, which the state releases each month.
If you look only at active voters, there are about 8,400 more active registered Republican voters than active Democrats.
But when you add inactive registered voters into the mix, Democrats overtake Republicans by about 14,00 voters.
“Active” voters are registered voters who have an address that the Secretary of State’s office can confirm with a mailing; “Inactive” voters include voters who don’t appear to live at the address the state has on record.
“Both are eligible to vote,” says Secretary of State spokeswoman Lynn Bartels, but her office can’t send a ballot to an inactive voter because officials know the address is wrong and ballots are not forwardable.
So here are the numbers for registered active and inactive voters for July 1, 2016:
Registered active and inactive Democrats = 1,150,448
Registered active and inactive Republicans = 1,136,502
So, yes, technically there are now more registered Democrats than Republicans in Colorado.
But for anyone thinking that takes the swingy nature of Colorado off the table, think again. The state’s largest voting bloc is unaffiliated voters. How many? 1,284,407. Also, because of a package of new election laws passed by the legislature in 2013 that brought all-mail elections to Colorado, the state also has same-day registration. So anyone who is not registered to vote can show up on Election Day, register to vote as a member of a party or an unaffiliated voter, and cast a ballot.
“I think the more interesting story here is the growth of the unaffiliated voter,” Bartels says.
As for why there might be more registered Democrats now, Bartels, a former political reporter, speculates that excitement for Vermont’s Bernie Sanders, the longest-serving independent in the U.S. Senate, might have led unaffiliated voters in Colorado to become Democrats so they could caucus for him.
The Sanders campaign encouraged that effort, as The Colorado Independent reported in February. When we looked at the numbers then, we found that between Oct. 1 and Jan. 4, a total of 4,402 unaffiliated voters switched over to the Democratic Party. That was 769 more than switched from unaffiliated to the Republican side in that timeframe. The dates are significant because that’s around the time the Sanders campaign started its push. Jan. 4 was the deadline to register by party in order to participate in the caucuses.
Interestingly, though, in that same timeframe, more registered Democrats actually switched parties to become Republicans in Colorado than the other way around.
But now the Democrats are clearly on top when it comes to registered voters in Colorado when you combine both categories for active and inactive voters.
“Colorado Democrats are working hard to earn the vote of every Coloradan by engaging supporters, volunteers and voters,” said Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio in a statement. “Our grassroots network is activated and united in our efforts to elect Democrats up and down the ticket— from president of the United States to Sen. Bennet to taking back the state legislature.”
For his part, Colorado Republican Party Chairman Steve House addressed the issue during a conference call with reporters Wednesday. Well, kind of. He spun the numbers into an attack on how Coloradan’s feel about Hillary Clinton, and also focused on unaffiliated voters, saying, “that’s where the election gets decided.”
As for third party registration in Colorado, here are the total numbers for those as of July 1:
Libertarian Party: 34,664
Green Party: 10,255
American Constitution Party: 9,768
Unity Party: 373
[Photo credit: Tim Green via Creative Commons in Flickr]