In the run-up to the 2008 election, then-Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign orchestrated one of the largest voter registration efforts in history, blanketing the country to register people door-to-door, at rallies and on college campuses. The strategy paid off. In Colorado, the number of registered Democrats increased by roughly 186,000 — almost four times the number of new Republicans. Unaffiliated voters also grew more than Republicans, then broke hard for Obama on Election Day, helping him clinch a 9 percentage point victory here. The enthusiasm didn’t carry over to 2010. According to data provided by the secretary of state’s office and analyzed by The Denver Post, of voters from all parties registered in 2008, nearly one-third did not cast ballots in the midterm election two years later.
Now Obama is trying to hold onto the White House. And at a time when every vote counts, that dip in turnout, coupled with state law that governs who is deemed active and may be sent mail ballots, has put Democrats at a distinct disadvantage. It also has fueled a fight that is expected to reignite at the state Capitol today, when a Senate committee will consider legislation that would ensure more voters — overwhelmingly Democrats and the unaffiliated — get a ballot in their mailbox for the Nov. 6 election.
Colorado Democratic Party chairman Rick Palacio said Friday the issue should not be a partisan one. “People from all parties should be encouraging the secretary’s office and the clerks’ offices to ensure that these people continue to vote,” he said. “There should be no one saying 2008 was a fluke, and ‘You didn’t vote in 2010, therefore we think you should have to take unnecessary steps to exercise your constitutional rights.’ ”