BY FREDA MIKLINGOVERNMENTAL REPORTER
When the numbers were all tallied, 1,484,523 Coloradans voted on the question, “Without raising taxes and to better fund public schools, higher education, and roads, bridges, and transit, within a balanced budget, may the state keep and spend all the revenue it annually collects after June 30, 2019, but is not currently allowed to keep and spend under Colorado law, with an annual independent audit to show how the retained revenues are spent?” 54 percent of those who cast a vote said no, compared to 46 percent who approved.
That is the opposite of what Magellan Strategies, a highly respected local Republican pollster, reported after conducting a scientific poll in August. Back then, they said that 54 percent of those polled planned to vote yes, 30 percent were no’s, and 15 percent were undecided. That means that all the undecideds in August voted no and one-sixth of those who planned to vote yes changed to no’s.
According to published reports, Referendum CC proponents raised $4.45 million in contributions (all private) and spent $4.12 million. Opponents reported donations of $1.75 million and expenditures of $1.68 million. One never knows what affects voters, but there was a very clever cartoon television ad by opponents of the plan, that ran frequently in the days leading up to the election. It had a dog representing “pet projects” portrayed as eating up the unrefunded extra tax money instead of using it for education and transportation, as promised.
Magellan’s David Flaherty points out that the key to the loss lies with unaffiliated voters, who are unpredictable, compared to major party members who generally follow their party’s lead. Like many issues, this one found most Democrats on one side (yes) and most Republicans on the other (no).
As of Nov. 1, active Colorado voters affiliated with the two major parties combined, comprised only 58 percent of the electorate (28 percent are Republicans, 30 percent are Democrats), while 40 percent of all active voters were unaffiliated with either of the two major parties. Historically, unaffiliated voters have been less apt to participate in off-year elections like this one. Compared to the off-year election held in 2015, fewer Republicans and fewer Democrats voted this year, while 4 percent more unaffiliated voters participated. The actual number of unaffiliated voters who made themselves heard in this year’s election was 502,011.
In Colorado, the older someone is, the more likely they are to vote, and the less likely they are to approve a tax increase. Of the nearly one-third of all the people who voted in the Nov. 5 election and were unaffiliated, nearly half of them were over age 55. It is easy to see how that contributed to the defeat of Proposition CC.
The measure had been passed by the Democrat-controlled state legislature with some Republican support. The continuing struggle to pay for education and transportation is shared by state legislators of both parties. Colorado’s strong economy is inconsistent with its low ranking for state spending on education, especially higher education, and the $9 billion backlog of road projects.
In the aftermath of the election loss, coupled with the losses in 2018 of two competing ballot issues to fund roads and transportation, the legislature is going to have to take a fresh look at how these needs can be addressed. Who knows? Maybe the Democrats and the Republicans will even look together.
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