In the 2014 national election, only 36 percent of eligible voters participated. California was at the low end of the scale with 31 percent. Colorado was at the high end of the states with 54 percent of eligible voters casting a ballot.
The state’s voter participation is typically above the national average. The 2014 final count of 2,080,000 was in line with previous midterm turnout. The range of turnout predictions ran from 2.0 to 2.2 million voters.
Mark Udall’s campaign claimed that 2.1 million voters was their goal. Given the preference of voters who turned out, it would not have been sufficient even if every additional voter supported him (from 2,080,000 to 2,100,000). However, if the final number had been 2.2 million and he received two-thirds of the final vote, he would have made up his 38,000 vote deficit. A possible, but unlikely, scenario. In other words, given the percentage of the vote, Udall received (i.e., 46 percent to Gardner’s 48 percent) more turnout; i.e., the Bannock Street Project, was not likely to save him.
Turnout will also be a much discussed factor in the next presidential election. The 2016 election could attract three million Colorado voters. That would be a 50 percent increase over the two million midterm voters and 400,000 above the 2.6 million who voted in the Obama vs. Romney 2012 election.
The 3 million voter projection for 2016 is based on historic turnout percentages from presidential elections and an assumption on the number of newly registered voters as shown in the chart above. Colorado is the fifth fastest growing state in the country and large numbers of Millennial voters are reaching 18 years old. The estimated used in this analysis is 400,000 new voters.
Democrats had hoped spending $15 million on a turnout effort in Colorado in 2014 was going to save them from a bad election environment and, ultimately, a weak campaign. Not surprising, they believe the increased turnout in 2016 will be a key advantage. But, the lesson of the 2014 midterm election is that a campaign cannot be rescued by a turnout effort if it is losing on message, regardless of the effort’s sophistication or cost.