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Growing number of unaffiliated voters in El Paso County change Colorado Springs political scene

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- While Colorado Springs and surrounding El Paso County have traditionally been conservative, voting trends show a shift in demographics, making Tuesday's mayor results less shocking.

Political newcomer and Colorado Springs business owner Yemi Mobolade is projected to be the 42nd mayor of Colorado Springs. The self-declared Independent beat Republican Wayne Williams by about 18,600 votes, per the latest results.

Many voters throughout Colorado labeled this victory an upset. In some cases it is. Williams has years of political experience. He was the Colorado Secretary of State for four years and most recently a Colorado Springs city council member.

However, the voter demographics in Colorado Springs and El Paso County have slowly shifted for years, leaving this victory less shocking than some may realize.

“I've been looking at some polls, I wasn't surprised,” said Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers. “Things were definitely trending in that direction.”

In 2019, Suthers won the mayor race handily, receiving 72% of the votes. At the time of the election, registered Republican voters outnumbered all other political parties in El Paso County with 156,631.

Today, those demographics look much different.

In the last four years, registered Republican voters in El Paso County declined to 147,367, according to data from the Colorado Secretary of State’s website. Conservatives still significantly outnumber liberals, but registered Democrat numbers have held more steady.

In 2019, there were 84,455 registered Democrats in El Paso County. Those numbers increased to about 93,000 in 2021 before slowly declining back down to 86,020 as of last month.

However, the most impactful trend is the number of unaffiliated voters in El Paso County. Since 2019, registered unaffiliated voters have increased by more than 70,000.

As of May 2023, there are 54% more unaffiliated voters (227,969) in El Paso County than there are Republican voters (147,367).

Data from Colorado Secretary of State

Mobolade’s win wasn’t a sudden change in Colorado Springs and El Paso County politics. Past races show this slow shift.

In the 2018 Colorado Governor race, El Paso County voters overwhelmingly supported Walker Stapleton (56%) instead of Jared Polis (39%). During Polis’ reelection in 2022, he still lost in El Paso County to Heidi Ganahl but gained about 25,000 more votes than he did in 2018.

For years, Republican Congressman Doug Lamborn has dominated the seat for District 5 in the U.S. Congress. But his percentage of votes has slowly declined. In 2012, he won with more than 64% of the vote but in the most recent election in 2022, he won with 55% of the votes.

“I think the demographics are changing, and I think it's less conservative than it has been in the past,” Suthers said.

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Quinn Ritzdorf

Quinn is a reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about him here.


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