Boomers boast biggest voter increase
EAGLE COUNTY – Turns out the young are not to blame – or thank – for Eagle County’s 2004 election results.Their parents, however, are a different story. Local political pundits had speculated massive turnout among young voters helped turn traditionally conservative Eagle County to the left this year. But voters under the age of 25 accounted for only 6 percent of the 18,644 people who voted in the Nov. 2 election, according to information recently released from the county clerk’s office. And 26- to 35-year-olds, representing 24 percent of the vote, had even less of an impact on election results than they did in 2000, when they made up 26 percent of the ballots cast.The only age group that had an increase in turnout were the oldest members of our community: those over the age of 50. They accounted for 31 percent of the votes cast, up from 26 percent in 2000.Studies have shown that more and more people who own vacation homes in Eagle County are planning to retire here and make the county their primary residence. But Jim Lamont, a longtime resident and director of the Vail Village Homeowners Association, doesn’t think retirees affected the 2004 turnout. Local residents did, he said.
“Vail has just steadily gotten older,” he said. ‘Progressive attitude’In the 2000 election, Republican candidates won the majority of races in Eagle County and most of the state and national races. This year, Democrats swept every race in the county except one.The majority of ballots – 70 percent – cast in Eagle County’s November election were by voters older than 36 years old. “I think nationally older people vote,” said Vail Mayor Rod Slifer, another longtime local resident who falls in that older-than-36 age group. “They have the time to get involved and they vote.”Predictions that turnout among those younger than 35 would dramatically increase apparently were wrong, Lamont said.”(Young people) just didn’t turnout, but their parents certainly did,” he said. “They weren’t going to let their liberal kids decide for them.”
Maybe so, but that theory wouldn’t seem to explain Eagle County’s shift toward Democrats. Lamont suggests Eagle County voters aren’t bound to party lines or the political stereotypes that go with age. “Vail is much more progressive,” he said. “You have a much more progressive attitude and so people are much more optimistic and much more prone to embrace very positive perspectives.”What’s age got to do with it?Case in point: Despite attempts by Democrats to increase the number of absentee voters, Republicans still submitted more. The donkey party’s efforts to get out the vote may not have been all for naught, however.”John Kerry almost exactly ties George Bush in absentee votes, which tell me a chunk of Republicans voted for John Kerry,” Simonton said. “Because 90 percent of unaffiliated voters didn’t vote for John Kerry.”Debbie Marquez, chairwoman for the local Democratic party, said the campaign on all age groups. “We won the ground war,” she said. “We had people out there every weekend and at other times at well.”A message requesting comment was left at the local Republican Party co-chairman Don Lemon’s home. He did not return the call by press time.
The U.S. Census shows the median age in Eagle County is 31. Residents between 25 and 34 represent the largest single age group, making up 23 percent of the county’s population. People 35 to 44 years old make up the second largest age group with 19 percent, while residents ages 45 to 54 make up the next largest age group with 14 percent. Marquez was quick to point out that more young people turned out to vote than in 2000. But the impact it had on election results did not increase.Amanda Russell, 26 and an Edwards resident, was surprised to learn that turnout among her peers wasn’t higher. “Everyone I talked to planned to vote,” she said. Staff Writer Tamara Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607, or email@example.com.Vail, Colorado