Denver’s millennials didn’t care much about the last local election

As the stats show, young voters in Denver participate in local elections at relatively abysmal rates, giving up much of their generational clout.

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photo
Bob Bair and David Bailey, a bipartisan pair of election judges, review unclear ballot markings. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)

Bob Bair and David Bailey, a bipartisan pair of election judges, review unclear ballot markings. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)

Fact of American democracy: Older people vote more, and that’s only amplified at the local level, as demonstrated in Denver by a new Portland State University research project.

As the stats show, young voters in Denver participate in local elections at relatively abysmal rates, giving up much of their generational clout.

The difference:

People aged 18 to 34 made up 39 percent of Denver’s adult population in 2015. But only a tenth of the registered people in that range actually voted for mayor that year, meaning that these young voters ultimately made up barely 13 percent of the actual vote.

It’s the opposite for people older than 65. They made up about 13 percent of the population, but nearly 60 percent of them voted, which means they made up nearly 37 percent of the vote.

In other words, the typical Denver voter for that race turned out to be significantly older (median 59 years old) than the typical Denver adult (median 40 years old).

This disparity showed up despite the fact that all eligible voters received a ballot that they could submit by mail.

A caveat:

The mayoral race of 2015 wasn’t that competitive, and turnout was unusually low for it. Only 23 percent of registered voters weighed in on whether Mayor Michael Hancock should be re-elected, which he was with 80 percent of the vote.

So, perhaps this age difference is affected a bit by low overall interest – just 23 percent of registered voters in the mayoral race. In a relatively low-drama cycle, it’s possible that millennials may have become distracted by assorted shiny materials while older voters kept on keeping on.

In general, according to Denver Elections spokesman Alton Dillard, the seniors have showed up in force at the ballot box.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the data right now to say how age differences played out in a more exciting election, but I will try to return to this topic in a few weeks once I do.

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