‘The incredible shrinking political party’ — Colorado’s GOP | CRONIN & LOEVY | Opinion

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Tom Cronin and Bob Loevy



They were two classic but clunky horror films — “The Incredible Shrinking Man” in 1957 and “The Incredible Shrinking Woman” in 1981. They told the story of what happens when a full-sized human begins to shrink down to one or two inches high. One graphic scene had a two-inch high man fighting a normal size spider and using a sharpened pencil as his only weapon.

It is time for a sequel. “The Incredible Shrinking Political Party.” The star of this film will be the Colorado Republican Party in summer 2023. The percentage of registered Republican voters in Colorado has been dropping dramatically during the past few years.

A subplot will be the percentage of Democratic Party registered voters in Colorado is also shrinking, but not nearly as much as in the Republican Party — about half as much.

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And the main beneficiary of these voter registration changes are unaffiliated voters, who have increased their percentage of Colorado’s registered voters to almost 50%.

For comparison purposes, we used state voter registration figures for April 2010, which was 13 years ago. At that time Colorado was noted for having about one-third of its voters registered Democratic, about one-third registered Republican, and one-third registered unaffiliated. The exact numbers in 2010 were:

Democrats 33.7%

Republicans 35.3%

Unaffiliated 31%

Note that in 2010 there was actually a higher percentage of registered Republicans than Democrats. Here are the equivalent figures for 2023:

Democrats 27.7%

Republicans 24.5%

Unaffiliated 47.7%

We then measured the extent of the change, in percentage points, from 2010 to 2023:

Democrats -6.0

Republicans -10.8

Unaffiliated +16.7

The Republican drop of minus-10.8 percentage points was almost double the Democratic drop of minus-6.0 percentage points, thereby indicating the Republicans have been hurt more than the Democrats by these recent shifts in political party voter registration.

The Colorado county damaged the most was El Paso County, which contains the city of Colorado Springs and has a reputation of being one of the most Republican counties in the state.

It had the largest county drop in the state in Republican registrations from 2010 to 2023, the Republicans going down 16.2 percentage points. In comparison, Democratic registrations in El Paso County only went down 4.3 percentage points. Unaffiliated voter registrations went up 20.5 percentage points, the highest unaffiliated gain in the state.

Other counties with high drop-offs in Republican voter registrations were located in the Denver metropolitan area outside of Denver city. Douglas County dropped 14.9 percentage points Republican compared to only 3.2 points Democratic. Arapahoe County: minus-14.1 Republican to minus-4.3 Democratic. Broomfield: Republican minus-13.8 to Democratic minus-2.1. Jefferson County: Republican minus-12.7 to Democratic minus-4.0.

We found this pattern of Republican registrations dropping twice as fast as Democratic registrations throughout the entire Front Range, the highly populated corridor in Colorado that runs from Pueblo on the south through Colorado Springs and Denver to Fort Collins and Greeley on the north.

An exception was Pueblo County, known historically for its large steel mill and its large number of unionized workers. Its Republican registrations only dropped 1.3 percentage points from 2010 to 2023 while its Democratic registrations dropped 15.5.

This fits with the national trend for working-class communities throughout the United States. Originally strongly Democratic, Pueblo County has become much less Democratic in recent years.

Another exception was Denver, where both political parties lost support in almost equal amounts. The Republican voter registrations went down 7.9 percentage points and the Democrats dropped 8.5 percentage points. Despite that drop in Democratic registrants, Denver remains the most consistently voting Democratic place in Colorado.

A second county where both political parties lost support in equal amounts was Adams County: Republicans down 7.9. Democrats down 7.7.

The only counties in Colorado where Republicans are gaining voter registrants over Democrats are in the rural agricultural counties found on the eastern plains and on the western slope. For instance, Cheyenne County located on the eastern plains along the Kansas border dropped more Democratic registrants than Republican registrants. Republicans went down 4.5 while Democrats dropped 8.3.

In adjoining Kiowa County, the Republicans actually gained registrants while the Democrats suffered a substantial loss. Republicans were up 3.3 percentage points to Democrats  down 15.8 percentage points.

The problem with the Republican Party doing well at registering voters in rural agricultural counties is those counties are a very small part of the Colorado statewide electorate — less than 10%.

Though most Colorado counties in 2023 have a percentage of unaffiliated voters in the 40% range, some of the ski resort counties high in the Rocky Mountains registered 50% or higher for unaffiliated voters. Summit County (Breckenridge, etc.) hit 54.2% unaffiliated. Eagle County (Vail) was 53.5% unaffiliated. Pitkin County (Aspen) scored 52.2% unaffiliated.

Increasing attention needs to be paid to the steady dropping of the numbers of voters who register in the Democratic and Republican political parties.

As the political party percentages go down, the declining number of people who register Republican tend to become more conservative and right-wing in their political views. At the same time, the shrinking numbers of voters registering Democratic veer toward being more liberal and progressive in their political attitudes.

This may make it difficult for moderate, middle-of-the-road candidates to gain either the Republican or Democratic nomination for office. The result, already beginning to happen, will be more candidates petitioning into the party primary elections by gathering a certain number of voter signatures.

Candidates will petition onto the primary ballot rather than trying to get nominated at more ideological political party caucuses and political party county and state conventions.

If there is to be more petitioning on to party primary elections, Colorado might consider making the process easier by reducing the number of petition signatures required for each particular office.

Tom Cronin and Bob Loevy write about Colorado and national politics.

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