• The Lake News Magazine

Surveying the Field; What Young Voters Need To Know Before Hitting The Polls

While 2020 is an important election year at all levels, it can be easy to feel like there is a whirlwind of information swirling around. As advertisements plaster billboards and suffocate the internet, the ability to decipher these coded messages and make personal political decisions is a valuable asset. From caucuses to conventions and everything in between, The Lake Staff is here to break down what young voters need to know as this turbulent season ramps up.


According to the United States Election Project, just over 60 percent of the voting eligible population turned out to vote in the 2016 general election, with even fewer participating in the 2018 midterms at just over 50 percent. Voter turnout in the United States lags far behind when compared to other developed nations. This lack of political participation can be attributed to the time commitment, which may involve taking time off work to head to the polls, along with the widely held belief that each individual vote doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of such a large election. With less people able to participate, the winning candidates often fail to adequately reflect the views of the majority of voters, especially young people and minorities. In Colorado, all voters are sent mail-in ballots, which allow voters to fill out their ballot on their own schedule, so long as the ballots are received by the county clerk and recorder before 7:00 p.m. on election day. Optionally, Coloradans maintain the choice to vote in-person at a traditional polling center.


Each of the 50 states conduct their elections in one of two ways: through a caucus or a primary. In a caucus system, each political party runs an event wherein voters meet to debate on behalf of various issues and candidates. The voters then openly show their support or cast secret ballots. If a candidate fails to meet a threshold number of votes, for instance 15%, they will be eliminated. Those who voted for that candidate must then reassess, either choosing a different candidate or convincing others to vote for their candidate until the threshold is reached and the candidate may be reintroduced. Those states without caucuses hold primaries, which are run by the state itself. In a primary, which may be classified as either open or closed, depending on the state. Since Colorado is an open primary, voters may vote for either major party, regardless of their registered party affiliation. While Colorado holds precinct caucuses along with county, district, and state assemblies, voters are not required to attend these events in order to vote in the state primary. In a caucus system, to vote, voters must gather at set locations and have the opportunity to discuss the race and candidates, which generally lowers voter turnout. Primaries on the other hand function in generally the same way as the general election, with the candidate receiving the most votes from each party being sent forward to the general election.

What is the DNC and why does it matter?

During the Democratic National Convention from July 13 to July 16, the Democratic party determines their nominee based on a complicated system of delegates divided into pledged delegates and automatic delegates, more commonly referred to as superdelegates. Previous primary results, general election electoral votes, and the date of the primary or caucuses determine the amount of pledged delegates each state is allotted. Depending on the state, voters either directly support a candidate in the presidential preference primary or indirectly support a candidate by supporting a pledged delegates. These delegates, according to DNC rules, shall in all good conscience reflect the sentiment of those who elected them, meaning the delegates should select the nominee based on the results of their state’s primary. Essentially, these delegates should not go rogue and pick a candidate underrepresented by their state. However, an important barrier that all candidates must cross is the 15% threshold, which states that they can only accrue delegates if they gained 15% of the total votes during primary and caucus season. These individuals that ultimately decide the fate of the party during an election year are distributed across three categories— district candidates, at-large delegates, and PLEO delegates, which are party leaders and elected officials.

Whereas pledged delegates must reflect the will of their constituency, superdelegates are detached from any voters, and rather throw their support behind their favorite candidate. These 771 delegates consist of members of the Democratic National Committee, Democratic members of Congress, Democratic governors, or distinguished party leaders, including former presidents and vice presidents, according to Ballotpedia.


The Republican National Convention in 2020 will take place from August 24 through August 27 in Charlotte, North Carolina. At the convention, the winner of the Republican party nomination will be announced. While Donald Trump is projected to win the nomination, he does face some competition from presidential hopefuls such as Joe Walsh. However, it is important to note that few candidates choose to run against an incumbent, or person who already holds office and is seeking reelection.


While mainstream news coverage often pertains to the Republican Party and the Democratic Party, Colorado also has several minor parties; these parties are the American Constitution Party, the Approval Voting Party, the Green Party of Colorado, the Libertarian Party of Colorado, and the Unity Party of Colorado. Colorado’s voting history has evolved from a largely Republican past to a purple state, meaning that the number of red, or Republican, and blue, or Democratic, voters is fairly equal. In recent years Colorado has shifted more towards a blue, or Democratic state, but still retains large red voting blocks.


Voting is an incredibly important part of the democratic process, but despite that, many people, especially young people don’t vote. But voting can be so easy that there’s no reason not to do it.

Voters can register to vote at the DMV, and anyone who will be 18 by November 3rd, 2020 can register to vote in both the primary and general election. If someone has a Colorado driver’s license or state issued ID, then they can register to vote online at https://www.sos.state.co.us/pubs/elections/vote/VoterHomeMobile.htm or by searching “register to vote Colorado” in a search engine. If they don’t have a license or ID but are eligible to vote, they can print off a paper registration from the same site. And same day voter registration is available at polling locations on the day of the general elections. Colorado will even periodically automatically register eligible voters as independents. Prospective out-of-state college students can either wait to register until they move, or may register in Colorado and have their ballots mailed to their new residence.

When registering to vote, voters will be met with a decision: what party to register with. Voters can register with either of the two major parties, with a third party, or as an independent. Each registration means something different. Registering with the major political parties allows for voting in the primary elections of the respective party; the same goes for third parties. Registered independents can vote in the primary for either major political party but only one; Third parties can choose whether to let independents vote in their primary elections.


  • Gray Wolf Reintroduction Initiative: This measure, if passed, would require the reintroduction of gray wolves by 2023 in Colorado. While supporters stress the importance of restoring an endangered species, opponents fear the potential dangers on the rest of the local food chain.

  • Citizen Requirement for Voting Initiative: Changes the wording in the Colorado Constitution to say “only a citizen” can vote instead of “every citizen” can vote.

  • National Popular Vote Referendum: Colorado’s electoral votes will be pledged to the winner of the nation-wide popular vote, contingent on enough states pledging to do the same for their to be a total of the required 270 electoral votes. This forms a part of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC).

  • Transportation Bond Issue: Authorizes a $1.837 billion bond debt for transportation improvements and updates


  • $40 Tax Credit for Voting Initiative (CISS #83): Create a 40$ tax credit for those who vote in either primary and/or general elections. Signatures due: July 10th 2020

  • Establish Approval Voting System Initiative (CISS #104): Establish an approval voting system for state and local elections for Colorado. An approval voting system means voters can vote for multiple candidates and whoever wins the most total votes wins. Signatures due: July 10th 2020

  • General Elections as State Holiday Initiative (CISS #105): Makes the day of the general election a state holiday in Colorado. Signatures due: July 10th 2020

  • Vouchers for Campaign Contributions Initiative (CISS #106): Provides non-transferable vouchers to Colorado residents which can be used to support candidates for Colorado Governor, General Assembly, and US Congress. Signatures due: July 10th 2020

  • 22 week abortion ban initiave (CISS #120): Prohibits abortion at 22 weeks. Signatures due: March 4th 2020

  • Limits on Housing Growth Initiative (CISS #122): Limit Privately Owned Residential

Development to 1% Growth Annually. Signatures due: June 5th 2020

Electoral College:

Requires 270 of 538 votes:

When the Constitution was being written a provision was included to try and control the presidential election, the Electoral College, the system was meant to balance power between the elite and the general public. In contemporary views the Electoral College is seen as a measure to prevent massive cities from determining the vote, and giving rural voters a chance. Essentially, each state receives varying amounts of electoral votes based on total population. Five hundred thirty eight votes make up the entire country, and 270 delegates are necessary for any presidential candidate to win the general election. For example, Colorado possesses 9 electoral votes based on their 5.7 million people, 21st largest in the union according to the US Census Bureau. This form of democracy can lead to division in tightly contested scenarios, such as when one candidate wins the popular vote while the other wins the electoral college, and therefore the presidency. In 2000 and 2016, democratic candidates Al Gore and Hillary Clinton won the popular vote while George W. Bush and Donald Trump won the electoral college. Currently, activists and states advocate for referendums such as the National Popular Vote Referendum, addressed in the Ballot Initiatives section of this article.

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