A review of voter registration data for ten counties in Colorado details a pattern of voter bloat inflating registration rolls to numbers larger than the total voting age population. Using publicly available voter data and comparing it to U.S. Census records reveals the ten counties having a total registration ranging between 104 to 140 percent of the respective populations.
Counties such as Gilpin and Hinsdale have 110 percent of their populations registered to vote. Gilpin County has a total population of 5,441 with 17.4% of the population below the voting age, making the highest possible number of registered voters 4,494. Currently Gilpin County has 4909 registered voters. Hinsdale County has a total population of 830 with 20% of the population below the voting age, making the highest possible number of registered voters 664. At 110 percent registration, that means that there are 515 excess voter registrations in Gilpin county and 68 excess registrations for Hinsdale.
While these voters come and go, they manage to turnout to vote. Records show Gilpin County had 61 percent voter turnout in the 2010 election and Hinsdale County had an astounding 92 percent voter turnout. This is far above the Colorado average turnout of 48 percent, and the national average of 41 percent.
All ten counties investigated by Media Trackers reported voter turnout greater than the national average. Nine out of ten also showed voter turnout well above the Colorado average. Mineral and San Juan counties, which have voter registration numbers of 126 percent and 112 percent respectively, had voter turnout of 96 and 83 percent respectively.
Rounding out the ten counties looked at by Media Trackers are San Miguel county, which topped the list at 140 percent of the population being registered to vote and 52 percent voter turnout, and Ouray county, which had 119 percent of the population registered to vote and a whopping 74 percent voter turnout.
While Ouray County has a total population of 4,356, with 17.8 percent of the population below the voting age, the county has 4,246 people registered to vote. The highest possible number of voting age residents in the county is 3,581, which is 775 less than the actual registered total.
San Miguel County has a total population of 7,359 with 19.2 percent of the population below the voting age, making the highest possible number of registered voters 5,946. If the census numbers are to be trusted, that results in the possibility of up to 2,390 individuals on the voter rolls who should not be.
Kathleen Erie, the Clerk and Recorder for San Miguel County, preemptively excused the voter bloat when responding to the CORA request from Media Trackers, saying “San Miguel County is a resort community. Many young people come here to work for a season or two and then move on.” Erie continued by explaining some of the voter bloat was due to senior citizens who “leave during large parts of the year, causing a (non-forwardable) mail ballot not to reach them.”
When Media Trackers asked Michelle Nauer, Clerk and Recorder for Ouray County, for an explanation regarding the enlarged voter rolls, she gave an answer similar to Erie’s. “Ouray has a large snow bird population” Nauer stated, “and residents fly south during the snowiest months, January through April.” Nauer went on to dispute the accuracy of the Census numbers, stating that “most of [her] voters were “counted by the census” in warmer climes, likely Arizona or Texas.”
In a separate analysis done by the Franklin Center, it was found that seventeen of Colorado’s sixty four counties have registration greater than 100 percent of the US Census voting age population.
As seen in the chart above detailing the persistent over registration of Ouray County, the Franklin Center analysis found that there are five counties which have reported greater than 100 percent of the voting age population as registered to vote for all years between 2004 and 2012.
Many of the counties contacted by Media Trackers responded with letters detailing the definitions of different voter classifications, i.e. active and inactive, as well as rules relating to the purging of voter data.