Turnout Analysis and the Failure of Amendment 66

Despite a near 30% increase in turnout from November 2011, Amendment 66 met the same fate as 2011’s Proposition 103. In fact if current unofficial results stand, Amendment 66 will have performed two points worse than Proposition 103. This despite the $10 million spent by the Yes on 66 campaign in an attempt to convince traditional swing voters to support the measure, as well as turn out large numbers of likely supporters who otherwise would not be inclined to vote in an odd-year election. Coming out of this past weekend, organizers of Yes on 66 were concerned that they would not meet their turnout goal, as Eli Stokols writes here. Their thinking was that they would be lucky to get to 1.2 million votes cast, and that they would need between 1.3 and 1.5 million votes cast in order to have a good chance of winning. An influx of ballots cast on Monday and Tuesday – 515,463 total, amounting to 37.5% of all ballots cast – set them near the middle of that 1.3 to 1.5 million goal with 1,372,886 ballots cast statewide. And yet Amendment 66 was still defeated by what was by most accounts a surprisingly large margin. The defeat of Amendment 66, then, looks to be not simply a story of depressed turnout.

A deeper look at how the electorate differed from November 2011 provides some interesting findings. Republicans made up roughly 2% less of the electorate (dropping from 41% to 39%), while Democrats made up roughly 1.5% less (from 33.5% to 32%), and so while this year’s electorate still predominantly registered with one of the major parties, the number of Unaffiliated voters with an interest in voting is growing (from 25.5% of the electorate in 2011 to 28.9% this year). Another development that is likely related to this rise in Unaffiliated voters was the rise in voters age 18-44. In 2011, they comprised 21.54% of the electorate. This year, it was 26.4%. Given these facts about the age and party affiliation of the electorate, we can say that this year’s electorate was younger and less partisan than the electorate in 2011.

This would seem to be to the benefit Amendment 66, and so the resounding defeat, and again the fact that it performed worse than Proposition 103, shows that the Yes on 66 campaign was unable to convince voters that the rise in income taxes would be worth the corresponding gains by Colorado’s public schools. They were not able to turn out enough new voters for Amendment 66, or to persuade existing likely odd-year voters to support it. The “new” voters, those who could have voted in 2011 but did not, were 35.4% Unaffiliated, 34.1% Republican and 30.5% Democrat. Even assuming overwhelming support among Democrats, that’s over two-thirds of newly motivated voters who, if the final tally is any indication, were unconvinced of the benefits of Amendment 66. Clearly the new voters did not provide a net-gain for Amendment 66. It was defeated with over 60% of the vote in Adams County, Broomfield, Jefferson and Larimer, which were all carried by President Obama last year. An inability to win over voters in these traditionally “swing” counties was emblematic of the problems for the Yes on 66 campaign. The support from the center that was necessary for the passage of Amendment 66 simply never materialized.

By: Ryan Winger

                   Magellan Strategies