What 9 Extremely Detailed Maps Tell Us About Colorado’s 2020 Election

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Joan Lopez, Arapahoe County Clerk and Recorder, sports a patriotic hat outside the CentrePoint Plaza polling station in Aurora on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.

Democrat Joe Biden won Colorado in a landslide victory, but newly released data shows how the elections played out at the smallest level of political detail: the precinct. A new analysis by CPR News shows how Biden, Lauren Boebert and other candidates performed in Colorado’s cities, towns and neighborhoods.

Where Biden Won

This map won’t surprise anyone who has followed Colorado politics. Biden won a blowout victory by racking up votes in high-population areas along the Front Range, and he retained Democrats’ strength along the Interstate 70 corridor and down toward Aspen.

Where Biden Outperformed Hillary Clinton

Colorado’s been solidly blue for the last few election cycles, but Joe Biden had the Democrats’ strongest performance in decades. Biden took about 55 percent of the vote. In comparison, Hillary Clinton won the state with 48 percent of the vote in 2016, and Barack Obama had 51 percent in 2012.

Biden outperformed Clinton in nearly every precinct, but he made the greatest gains in vote-share in the suburbs ringing Denver, as well as in Colorado Springs. He pushed out into the suburbs around Denver, gaining strength all along the metro’s outer edges. His performance in liberal Denver and Aurora was also stronger than Clinton’s — but Democrats had little room for improvement there. In Colorado Springs, Biden made gains through the city’s central neighborhoods and along I-25.

Another way to look at this: Where did Trump in 2020 perform worse than Trump in 2016?

Where The Libertarians Lost Power

Source: Colorado Secretary of State

In 2016, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson had a remarkably strong performance, taking about 5 percent of the vote statewide. In 2020, minor-party and unaffiliated candidates were far weaker in Colorado: their 19 presidential candidates took less than 3 percent of the vote in total.

It’s unclear from CPR News’ analysis whether the former third-party voters went more strongly to Trump or Biden in 2020; population shifts and other trends make it hard to draw conclusions about such a small number of voters. But an analysis of the precincts with the highest number of third-party votes in 2016 found that Democrats made enormous gains in those areas, while Republicans saw smaller increases.

4 Statehouse Republicans Survived Trump's Unpopularity

Ahead of the election, there were questions about whether Trump’s unpopularity would drag down local Republicans in Colorado. But, in the end, he didn’t necessarily hurt them. About 90 percent of Republican candidates outperformed Trump, meaning they got more votes than he did in their districts.

Also known as ticket-splitting, this phenomenon allowed some Republican state legislative candidates to survive despite anti-Trump sentiment. For example, Rep. Kevin Van Winkle won about 53 percent of his Highlands Ranch district, outperforming Trump in the district by more than 7 percentage points.

In all, CPR News identified four Republican statehouse candidates who won in areas that Trump lost. Besides Van Winkle, there was Rep. Colin Larson in Littleton; Sen. Kevin Priola in the suburbs and plains northeast of Denver; and Sen. Bob Rankin in rural northwestern Colorado. All were incumbents and all, except for Van Winkle, are considered moderates.

Separately, Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer won with 55 percent even though Trump won with only a plurality of about 49 percent in her Weld County districts.

Trump only outperformed seven state House candidates, and no state Senate candidates. Of the candidates he outperformed, only one, Stephanie Luck, won her race.

For Democrats, it was the opposite. Joe Biden was more popular than the vast majority of lower-level candidates. No Democratic lawmakers won by splitting ballots.  

Two Democratic district attorneys did manage to survive a Trump victory in their district — but they were the only candidates in their races. Both were in southern Colorado. On the Republican side, one DA candidate survived by splitting votes with Biden, while another won in a Biden district without opposition.

How Lauren Boebert Won

When political newcomer Lauren Boebert defeated incumbent Rep. Scott Tipton in the primary, some Democrats saw a potential chance to take back a district that had been red for a decade. Outside spending poured into a race that was suddenly seen as competitive.

However, when the votes were added up, Boebert carried the district with 51.4 percent of the vote. Here’s a breakdown of where she found the support to defeat Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush.

Boebert performed slightly worse than Tipton did in the district’s 2018 election, in part because she lost support in Pueblo. But Boebert made up for that by outperforming Tipton across large (rural) areas of the district.

Who Voted For Kanye West?

Kanye West did not get many votes in Colorado, but he did manage to come in fifth, behind Biden, Trump and the candidates for the Libertarian and Green parties. He didn’t get more than 17 votes in any precinct but he found a few supporters here and there, all across Colorado. Except the Eastern Plains, where there just aren’t many voters.