Coloradans Turned Out In Record Numbers To Vote In 2020. Here’s What That Means

Kevin J. Beaty/CPR News
Voting continues in downtown Denver on Nov. 3, 2020.

Minnesota or Colorado? The answer to which state had the highest voter turnout in 2020 (and who wins the bet between Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar) might still be a couple of days out.

But what we do know is that Coloradans voted in record numbers for the 2020 election.

As of Wednesday afternoon, 3,303,265 ballots have been returned out of an active voter roll of 3,780,115 — a turnout rate of 87 percent.

Unaffiliated voters, who make up a plurality of Colorado’s electorate, continued their trend from 2018 of dominating turnout. They cast 1,246,120, ballots. They were followed by Democrats with 997,835 ballots and Republicans who turned in 928,993 ballots

Those numbers suggest unaffiliated voters will make up about 39 percent of the votes cast this voting cycle, compared to four years ago when they clocked in at about 32 percent, according to David Flaherty CEO Magellan Strategies, a voter opinion polling firm. 

“That is stunning. That is such a high participation rate and it’s unprecedented,” Flaherty said. “At the same time, Republican voting strength has declined significantly.”

The end result is likely to be an increasing amplification of the interests and candidates that unaffiliated voters prefer. In this election and the last one, that turnout has broken for Democratic candidates, moving the state ever-further into the ‘safely blue’ column. However, on ballot measures, the results are more mixed.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Republican portion of voter turnout dropped to 29 percent, down from 33 percent four years ago. 

“It’s a math problem for them,” Flaherty said. “They don’t have the strength in numbers that they did for years. And that leads [one] to ask, ‘Can Republicans be competitive in a statewide election?’

The other notable trend in turnout results is that young voters surpassed senior voters, just like in 2016. Those 18-35 cast 27 percent of ballots this year, while voters 65 and older made up almost 23 percent of voter turnout in 2020.

This story has been updated to reflect voter numbers as of 3:15 p.m. on Nov. 4.