As Magellan continues our daily updates of ballots returned statewide in Colorado, it is necessary for us to make the following clarification: The purpose of these updates is not in any way an attempt to influence the outcome of the vote on Amendment 66. Any inferences drawn from this data, unless specifically mentioned here on this blog, are beyond our control, but suffice to say that the daily updates are not designed on our part to pronounce either triumphantly or despondently on the outcome of any particular campaign or issue on this year’s ballot.
Rather, as the picture of Colorado’s electorate begins to take shape with each day closer to November 5th, Magellan will be displaying on a daily basis our grasp and understanding of how to use data as a resource in forecasting the outcome of elections. Each day, that picture will become more and more complete, and so each day, the question will become more and more interesting: How does this year’s election compare to other similar elections, and what do any differences in the electorate tell us about what is likely to happen in the future?
In this case, we are interested in comparing this year’s election to November 2011, because that is the last time Colorado’s voters considered an issue on a statewide basis, without the presence of federal or state-level candidates on the ballot. In November 2011, just over 1 million Colorado voters cast a ballot. For comparison’s sake, nearly 2.6 million Colorado voters cast their ballot in the November 2012 Election, while over 1.8 million cast their ballot in the November 2010 Election. Of course the amalgamation of local campaigns and issue around the state, all with varying levels of voter interest, will play some role in determining the electorate, but there is no reason to expect turnout this year to approach November 2012 levels, or likely even November 2010 levels. November 2011, however, provides a solid point of comparison. That is why it has been chosen as our benchmark.
The question then becomes: How will this year’s election differ from November 2011? An obvious place to start is to look for new voters, meaning those people who have already cast their ballot this year, but did not vote in November 2011. For the purposes of taking a deeper look at the data, we’ll also include the November 2009 Election in this analysis, so that a “new” voter will be anyone who has voted this year, but did not do so in either November 2009 or November 2011. There are 44,145 Colorado voters who meet this criteria, as of this morning. They comprise 23% of the electorate thus far. We can safely assume that these 44,145 voters are people who have never shown any interest in voting in an off-year election, and yet for whatever reason that changed this year. One obvious reason why someone would be included in this category is if they simply weren’t eligible to vote in either November 2009 or November 2011, because they registered to vote after Election Day 2011. Here is the breakdown of what % of the “new” voters are new because of their registration date: