Opinion

NOONAN | Numbers don’t lie: Colorado is getting purpler — and leaning left

Author: Paula Noonan - October 18, 2018 - Updated: October 17, 2018

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Paula Noonan
Paula Noonan

Voter registration numbers give hard figures that describe current trends, and from July 2018 through September, registration numbers continued to move toward Unaffiliateds (UAF) in Colorado, big time.  Three large metro Denver counties paint the picture of the state’s shade of purple.

Secretary of state records show Adams County with 243,227 active voters. The county received 7,665 new registrations from July through September.  By the end of September, 2260, or 25 percent, registered as Democrats; 777, or 10 percent, registered as Republicans; and 4885, or 65 percent, registered as UAF.

Arapahoe County numbers are even more dramatic, with 7685 newly registered voters at 29 percent Dem, 2 percent GOP, and 68 percent UAF.

As a topper, Jefferson County, critical for state Senate races, gained 10,160 voters between July and September.  Democrats took 26 percent, Republicans 6 percent, and UAF 68 percent.

Even El Paso County leaned largely UAF at 62 percent, with 20 percent signing up as Democrats, exceeding Republicans at 18 percent.

Many small rural counties moved in the same direction.  Grand County registered 193 new voters, with 30 Democrats, 0 GOPers, and 161 UAF. Mesa County was a bright spot for the GOP with 626 new Republicans to 328 new Democrats.  But UAFs took 1429 voters.

Registrations don’t look good for Republicans running for statewide office.  Denver put on 16,000 new voters July to September, the most of any county.  The numbers break this way:  34 percent Democrats, 4 percent Republicans, and 62 percent UAF.  These new voters, if they vote, can provide Democratic candidate Jared Polis and down ballot Democrats some new cushion.

The women’s march after the Trump victory brought thousands of women out. That commitment now shows up as 1,670,012 women voters to 1,566,603 men, a 100,000+ registration variance. The difference appears principally in party registration. Two Denver metro counties show the impact.

Arapahoe County Democrats have 82,791 women voters to 55,778 men voters, with GOP registrations at 57,915 men to 54,402 women.  It’s that 27,000 vote spread among Democrats by gender that’s changed Arapahoe County from Republican leaning to Democratic leaning.

More telling, and just as eyepopping given the stakes, are the numbers in Jefferson County with 77,822 women Democrats to 51,869 men and 64,095 GOP men voters to 58,751 women voters. As of September, women Democrats exceed women Republicans by 19,000 registrations.  Republican men exceed Democratic men by 12,226 registrations. The Democratic party in Jeffco is becoming more female at the same time as three women Democrats are running for state Senate against two Republican men and one Republican woman.  Control of the Senate is in the balance.

Unaffiliated men in Jeffco exceed Unaffiliated women by 6802.  Almost 6000 of that spread shows up in the 26-60 age range.  Democratic women have a 15,000 voter advantage over Democratic men in that same age range while Republican men hold a 4000 registration advantage over GOP women from 26 to 60. It appears that working women in Jeffco, as well as the same cohort in Arapahoe County, have decided that the Democratic party has more to offer than the GOP.

These numbers suggest that up-for-grabs UAF registered women are likely to break toward the Democrats as UAFs roughly follow the Dem to GOP ratios.  It’s also likely that there won’t be enough UAF men breaking to the GOP to make up for the potentially large number of women who are likely to break Democratic (SOS numbers combine active and inactive registrations in the gender-age-party enumeration).

Candidates running on the old metro county models of somewhat Republican Arapahoe and Jefferson Counties are missing this very significant gender shift.  The trend may explain why traditional economic arguments about a strong economy and low unemployment rates are not playing as well in this election as in the past. A robust economy without significant improvements in public education, health care and safety, wages, and equal opportunity doesn’t feel as healthy to women as some assert.

Paula Noonan

Paula Noonan

Paula Noonan owns Colorado Capitol Watch, the state’s premier legislature tracking platform.