18- to 24-year-olds did not show up at polls as expected
Youth were supposed to turn out in masses for the election of 2008. That did not happen in Mesa County.
From the general election of 2004 to 2008 the youth vote, those aged 18 to 24, actually decreased by 600.
“Which really runs counter to the prevailing wisdom, I think,” said Gay Hammer, a consultant to local political campaigns. “With (Barack) Obama, quite frankly, I was one of the people who thought the 18 to 24 age group would be much more intense in registering and voting in Mesa County.”
Ralph D’Andrea, a political writer and part-time campaign consultant, agreed that the youth vote did not materialize in Mesa County.
But the next oldest age bracket, those between the age of 25 to 44, did increase by 1,664 votes in 2008 compared to 2004.
“I think that is where you are seeing new energy workers in that demographic,” he said.
The demographics of the county have changed over the years and will continue to do so in the future, he said.
“The driver for the demographics, say 10 to 15 years ago, was retired people selling their houses and coming out here and buying houses with cash,” D’Andrea said.
“Now what is driving the demographics is the energy sector. In four years maybe something else will drive the demographics.”
This also was supposed to be the election with the greatest turnout. It was, but it was not a record for registered voters.
In 2000, 5,695 more people registered to vote in the general election than in November 2008.
But the vote eight years ago was actually 16,537 less than the 2008 election.
The majority party in Mesa County has not changed.
Republicans cast 2,332 more votes from 2004 to 2008. Registered Democrats increased their votes by 1,189 over the same four years.
“It looks like the base in both the Democratic and Republican parties held,” Hammer said.
But the number of Democrats in the county is not growing as much as Republicans or the unaffiliated voters.
Democrats “tend to be older,” D’Andrea said.
Additionally, he said, in the past eight years a Republican has been president.
“Everyone wants to be on a winning team,” he said. “If Obama is successful four years from now, maybe more people will want to call themselves Democratic.”
Those voting as unaffiliated increased by 3,215 from 2004 to 2008.
Hammer said the rise of unaffiliated voters is more of an “undercurrent ... not necessarily a trend.”
Those who are unaffiliated do not identify with the extremes of either of the traditional parties, she said.
“People don’t want to be marginalized by any given party ... they tend to want to be mainstream,” Hammer said. “I think (in future elections) you will see the numbers will go up in the unaffiliated.”