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NAACP, others work to improve large disparities in voter turnout in Colorado

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Posted at 8:04 PM, Oct 20, 2022

DENVER — We’re just over two weeks out from the 2022 midterm election, and ballots are in the mail across Colorado.

The state is known for its high voter turnout, thanks in part to the option to vote by mail. In the 2020 general election, 76.4% of eligible voters turned out to vote, putting Colorado second in the nation for turnout behind Minnesota.

Even still, there are groups working hard to improve voter turnout numbers in this year’s election and beyond. If we zoom in on the data, we begin to see why.

Colorado’s high overall turnout is only part of the story. Our disparities in voting between groups are high, too.

Denver7 pulled some numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau, and found that while nearly 72% of eligible white voters turned out in the 2020 general election, just over 53% of eligible Black voters, 51% of eligible Hispanic voters, and 43% of eligible Asian voters did the same. That puts Colorado’s racial gap in voter turnout at 18.7%, more than six points higher than the national average.

The most common reasons given by people who chose not to vote, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, were that they weren’t interested and didn’t feel their votes would make a difference. That’s where current “get out the vote” initiatives draw their inspiration.

“We have a tremendous history with the NAACP, and if you look at the history of the organization, the mission was voting,” said Portia Prescott, president of the NAACP Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming state conference.

The NAACP is in the middle of several full-scale get out the vote initiatives, including virtual town halls with candidates, text message blasts, door-knocking campaigns and social media campaigns to drive up voting numbers.

“It’s all of us, really making sure that the people that are most marginalized, the most attacked and suppressed, are having the opportunity to vote,” Prescott said.

The NAACP earlier this year joined a national lawsuit against the group, U.S. Election Integrity Plan, alleging its members were committing voter intimidation by going door to door in neighborhoods where high numbers of minorities live in search of evidence of voter fraud. The lawsuit alleges volunteers with the group targeted high-density housing of minority voters, “sometimes armed and donning badges to present an appearance of government officiality.”

Prescott said this has had the effect of convincing many voters in contact with the NAACP that they either are unable to vote, or that by voting, they will be opening themselves up to harassment and threats.

“Colorado has been a target by organizations to marginalize and suppress our vote,” Prescott said. “We have what you call the full on press, because there’s so much misinformation that we’re going to make sure you have the right information.”

The NAACP is just one of many groups working hard to get out the vote. They’ve got their work cut out for them, since midterm elections historically see lower turnout.

“The biggest issue is understanding how important your vote is, why your vote is important, especially in a midterm election,” Prescott said. “What needs to occur is more people engaging in the voting process that cannot be denied. Your issues cannot be denied by anyone if you turn out and vote.”