Wave of new Colorado voters registered
Ryan Summerlin September 30, 2008
DENVER, Colorado ” Terry Baccus stood with his clipboard at the 30th and Downing transit station. Wearing jeans and a red T-shirt that said, “Raise your voice! Raise the vote! Raise the wage!” the 27-year-old asked a group of passengers whether they’d registered to vote.
About 10 people said they already were signed up or were too young. Then Baccus found 18- year-old Jo Nassia Martin, of Aurora. Martin filled out the registration form and checked the Democratic circle.
She said she wanted to vote “because everybody’s opinion is very important . . . I might as well make it count for my generation.”
New voters like Martin are signing up in droves in Colorado and across the country. Voter registration drives mounted by parties and interest groups are a huge factor in that surge.
Statewide, nearly 215,000 people between Jan. 1 and Sept. 1 registered as a new voter or because they moved to a different county, according to Magellan Data and Mapping Strategies in Louisville.
That’s 26,000 more than in the same period in 2004.
Of those newly registered voters, 78,013 are Democrats, compared with 48,451 Republicans. New unaffiliated voters outnumber both major parties, with 85,795 registrations during that eight-month period, according to the political consulting firm.
More than 40 percent of new voters are opting for mail ballots.
Baccus works for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, one of nearly 300 groups in Colorado mounting voter drives before the Oct. 6 registration deadline for the Nov. 4 election.
ACORN is second only to the Campaign for Change – the Barack Obama voter registration campaign – as the most active in Colorado.
ACORN targets minority communities and has submitted more than 65,000 voter forms, including first-time voters and already registered voters who are updating their information or requesting a mail ballot, said state director Ben Hanna.
The Obama campaign won’t say how many voters it has signed up, but has obtained 100,000 forms – far more than any other voter drive group – from the secretary of state.
Pat Waak, chairwoman of the state Democratic Party, attributes the high voter registrations to enthusiasm about the presidential race.
“I think it’s much more intense than we’ve ever done before because we’re a battleground state, and the sheer number of people who are coming out to work on these campaigns means we are able to do a lot more work on voter registration than we have done in the past,” Waak said.
The McCain campaign, working in concert with the Republican Party, also has been working to sign up voters.
“We’re registering (voters) in a very targeted way, making sure we’re using our resources the best we can,” said Tom Kise, regional campaign spokesman.
Kise said the campaign is using a variety of lists to find new residents and young voters and others who are likely to support John McCain.
No official complaints
He said that Republicans still outnumber other parties in total voter numbers in Colorado.
The Republican Party has been critical of the practices of some voter registration drive groups, like ACORN.
But Hanna said his organization has improved its quality control to make sure workers are turning in legitimate forms.
The secretary of state’s office has received no official complaints about registration drives.
Denise Lieberman, a voter protection lawyer with the national civil rights group Advancement Project, said she is more concerned about the backlog of voter forms at the local election offices than allegations of fraud.
“The more likely and more disturbing trend is the potential of eligible voters not being placed on the rolls, either due to backlogs or error,” she said.
Some county clerks say they are swamped with forms and are adding staff and work hours.