New voter law shows big shift in registrations to unaffiliated
Voter registrations have surged in the past month, but not because either party is running any big voter-registration campaign right now.
Because of an elections reform measure approved by the Colorado Legislature earlier this year, many voters had their registration status restored to active. Those people had been automatically moved to the “inactive voter” rolls maintained by the Secretary of State’s Office because they failed to vote last year.
The new law reversed a rule created by Secretary of State Scott Gessler that made the transfer of the voters to the inactive roster automatic, which Democrats didn’t like.
“One of the reasons that he moved people to the inactive rolls and created the rule that he did was because it disenfranchised more Democrats than Republicans,” said Rick Palacio, chairman of the Colorado Democratic Party. “The goal is to try to make it easier for folks to cast their ballot and bring people back into the process.”
The new law resulted in the Democrats gaining some ground on Republicans in overall voter registrations, coming within 1.1 percent of the Grand Old Party.
But of the more than 330,000 voters who were moved from the inactive rolls last month, more than half were unaffiliated.
Colorado pollster Floyd Ciruli said that follows a trend in registrations that began in the last presidential race.
That trend stems from a growing dissatisfaction within both parties, and a general sentiment not to affiliate with either, particularly among younger voters, Ciruli said.
“There’s this tremendous surge of millennials, and in some respects Hispanics, but most people under the age of 30,” he said. “If you look at registrations of young voters, they’ll be 50 percent independent. They don’t identify with either party, which they consider stodgy and not necessarily representing what they are interested in or are too rigid.”
Statewide, Democrats make up 31.6 percent of the 3 million registered voters, while Republicans are at 32.5 percent. Although both parties have more registered voters than they did at the end of May, both are down in their overall command of the electorate.
That’s because nearly 36 percent of voters now are either unaffiliated or registered with one of the state’s three minor parties, Libertarian, Green or American Constitution.